Ugly live notes #sxsw: Adapting New Technologies for Humanitarian Aid

Adapting New Technologies for Humanitarian Aid

Sunday 3:30

De Rivero: huge rise in mobile changing everydy life but also emergencies.

Importance of information during crises, info on familiaes. 

Lots of applications coming out: iCow in Kenya is used by farmers to manage livestock. Ushahidi mapping out emergency and live information. MoTech in Ghana have applications like Mobile Midwife [sort of like Text4 Baby]. But these are audio messages because of high illiteracy rates. Tailored with local dialects. Mpesa transfers money using SMS.

Ideal situation for us: Hooked up with Microsoft HealthVault to work within an SMS gateway in Senegal. Mother goes to a helah centre during vaccination, she sends an SMS to retrive vax history, and the health worker proceeds accordingly. So now it’s a technical issue to implement this.

Much of the current mHealth issues are taking place for just one project. But this could be carried out across countries 

This stuff will work if the users find it useful – they have control over the health record, they’ll have PHRs which is key. 

The other thing about the mobile boom in Africa, is that there is a tendency to blame cultural issues – they don’t go to the health centre is because it’s “part of their culture”. But it’s not cultural to use mobile phones either, but they do.

The reason they don’t got to the health centre is because it doesn’t work for them. People use things that work.

Gayton: MSF. In Haiti after the earthquake. Haiti is a strange place for the Western world, because its health indicators are akin to sub Saharan Africa. 

MSF is a private emergency humanitarian org. We have a great reputation in the community for being arrogant standoffish bastards. Our independence means that we don’t play well with others.

First we had a earthquake response. Then we had a cholera response. Treatment is easy, but it can spread like wildfire. Because Haiti is surrounded by healthy countries, cholera hadn’t been there before. We treated 110,000 cases in 2.5 months.

So can we contact Google and import some cholera data? 

Mayrgundter: we were contacted to work together with MSF and we went down there to take a look. All our assumptions were wrong about how to do this project. 

Gayton: The first thing we asked him to do was that we had an issue about the water systems. The key is cholrination. This will kill cholera, which is why you can have a raging epidemic 2 hours from Miami, and only three cases make it over.

Mayrgundter: So we made this map with a bunch of GPS units and pool testing kits. We taught some guys who knew the neighborhoods, and sent them out with these two things on bikes and mapped the cholrine levels.

Gayton: Then we hacked up a choolera register from a spreadsheet and were able to map it out. We took it to UNICEF, we screamed and yelled, and they ended up starting to pay for the trucks to repair.

Then we realized this would be a visceral tool for advocacy. Immediate utility. 

This wasn’t that complicated – these aren’t really “new” technologies, but they are being used in new contexts.

And now we’re firing through other data into Google Earth, cholera treatment centre locations and they’re real-time capacity. Making spreadsheet data visual and useful.

Mapping all of MSF’s cholera patients over time, and we can animate its spread on Google Earth. Again, we’ve had this data in spreadsheets but you couldn’t see it.

We need to relearn some of our technology stacks – a bunch of small technologies stuck together are great but too reliant on the cloud. With this tiny toolkit we’re able to do much more.