How technology and empathy can change lives

If someone from the 1950s appeared today, what would be the most difficult thing to explain to them about life today? 
You might have come across this question that was asked on Reddit a while ago – and also the witty answer that went viral: I possess a device, in my pocket, that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get in arguments with strangers.

TEDxAmRing speaker Saijai Liangpunsakul has dedicated her life to an alternative use of mobile phones to change the world for the better: Through mobile health solutions for underprivileged regions.

Mobile devices to save lives

In Western, urbanized areas where infrastructure is immediately accessible, we tend to forget how information-intense our everyday-processes are. We take clusters of material and competence for granted, e.g. hospitals full of specialized doctors, medication and an enormous amount of organisational knowledge to enable highly accurate diagnosis and treatment.
But in most regions of the world, reality looks different. Healthcare in so-called low ressource areas is distributed by community workers who can only carry minimum equipment with them. They have to keep track of their patients’ history without access to extensive files. They have to make decisions with an impact on life or death based on rudimental information. They have to distribute complicated information that is often misunderstood because of low literacy rates. In that context, the small device in a community worker’s or a patient’s pocket can literally be a life-saver.

Sense and simplicity: All you need is SMS

Dimagi is a US-based company that specializes in eHealth-solutions for developping and low ressource regions. Low threshold usability and accessibility under all circumstances are key criteria for the succes of such solutions. With CommCare, they provide an open-source and cloud-based platform to build simple yet effective mobile applications with focus on data collection, client management, decision support and behavior change communications. All applications run on relatively simple mobile phones: The key technology for CommCare is SMS, which is supported by basically every mobile phone in the world and makes it ideal for limited budgets and large user bases. The possibilities are as versatile as the problems that communities may face: Immediate access for community workers to client histories, First Aid instructions in multimedia to compensate literacy problems or highly specialized tools to reliably recognize dangerous diseases in early stages.

Saijai Liangpunsakul at TEDxAmRing

Saijai Liangpunsakul, works as Field Engineer at Dimagi and has implemented mobile solutions for communities in Thailand, Zambia, Laos, Nepal and India. She was awarded the People’s Choice Award at the USAID Bangkok Mobile Solutions Forum for her proposal on using a mobile application to tackle dengue outbreak in Thailand.

On May 30th, Saijai will introduce her work and her belief in how technology with empathy can change lives at TEDxAmRing. Make sure you won’t miss her talk, as well as many other inspiring speakers and register now for Change – Worth fighting for.

Header image credits: royalty free

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