[Air-L] Using Cellphones To Change The World
McKiernan, Gerard [LIB]
gerrymck at iastate.edu
Thu Oct 15 14:15:23 PDT 2009
Using Cellphones To Change The World
MIT project leads to programs that help health workers, farmers in
D.C. Denison / Boston Globe / October 14, 2009
It's an unlikely medical device: a sleek smartphone more suited to a
nightclub than a rural health clinic. But it's loaded with software that
allows health workers in the remote northernmost Philippines province of
Batanes to dramatically reduce the time it takes to get X-rays to a
radiologist - and to get a diagnosis for a patient being tested for
The software, created by a nonprofit organization called Moca, is one of
nearly two dozen cellphone-based projects that have sprung from NextLab,
a course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It's taught by
Jhonatan Rotberg, who was sent to MIT by Telmex, one of Latin America's
largest telecommunications companies, to bring cellular technology to
the "90 percent of people'' who fall outside of the marketing plans of
most phone companies.
And when Rotberg settled into his research and teaching position at the
Media Lab, he made a discovery: The same device that powers teenage
texting in the United States can be adapted to help farmers in Mexico
and illiterate women in India.
In NextLab, Rotberg challenged students by asking, "Can you make a
cellphone change the world?'' And students have responded, creating
nearly two dozen projects and three start-up ventures that have been
working with communities in developing countries like India, Vietnam,
"It really kind of jumps out at you, the positive impact you can have
with cellphone technology,'' said Zack Anderson, a recent MIT graduate
who was on a team that started Moca, a nonprofit that is developing
mobile software to improve health care access in less wealthy countries.
Using Rotberg's course as a sounding board, the Moca team decided to
focus on facilitating cellphone communication between health workers in
rural areas and doctors, who tend to be in cities.
"The Philippines actually adopted cellphone texting way ahead of the US,
so there's already a platform in place that we can leverage,'' he said.
"We started with X-rays, but there's no reason we can't also transmit
ultrasound videos, echocardiograms, and other medical imagery.''
Dinube, a NextLab spinoff that was tested in Mexico last summer,
provides payment services to people who don't have access to traditional
Two other NextLab projects show the mobile phone's range: CelEdu offers
cellphone-based games and quizzes that have been used in India to teach
basic literacy skills. Zaca - developed by students at MIT, Harvard, and
Tufts - helps farmers make deals with buyers using their cellphones,
bypassing expensive middlemen. The cellphones also provide current crop
prices and advice on growing practices.
MIT's Legatum Center, which supports a variety of entrepreneurial
programs to bring innovation to developing countries, has four
cellphone-related projects in the works. That's not surprising, given
that the center's director, Iqbal Quadir, founded Grameenphone, a
company that introduced low-cost cellphone service to Bangladesh in the
To stay ahead of this rapidly evolving technology, Rotberg recently
launched what he refers to as version 2.0 of NextLab. The spring
semester course, hosted by the MIT Center for Transportation and
Logistics, will be focused on creating a mobile phone-based platform for
a broad range of projects.
"There's no question that the cellphone footprint will expand, and that
phones will get cheaper, and that computing power will grow,'' he said.
"The only question is, will we recognize that this is an opportunity for
Link To Full Article Available At
[ http://tinyurl.com/ygu44uj ]
BTW: !!! Thanks To Garrett Eastman / Librarian / Rowland Institute at
Harvard For The HeadsUp !!!
EXTRA > Today, October 15, 2009, Bill Gates Delivered A Major Speech At
The World Food Prize Symposium In Which He Committed $120 Million Toward
Projects That Focus, In Part, On Small Farmers, Including Getting
"Information To Farmers By Radio And Cell Phone."
Links To The Full Text Of The Speech, An Associated Slide Presentation,
And Video Of The Presentation Available From ThIs Posting.
Science and Technology Librarian
Iowa State University Library
Ames IA 50011
gerrymck at iastate.edu
There Are No Answers, Only Solutions / Olde Irish Saying
The Future Is Already Here, It's Just Not Evenly Distributed
Attributed To William Gibson, SciFi Author / Coined 'Cyberspace
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