Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

Engineering Change: THD Blogger on CNET!

cnet.jpgWe are very proud of our fellow THD Blogger – Jaspal, who is profiled on CNET today. For those unaware, CNET is a major technology news outlet. This is the first installment in a 3 part series on international development. If you want to read details about Jaspal’s project and his background, please do read the CNET story. Excerpts only:

Of PDAs and maternal medicine in Mongolia
Jaspal Sandhu isn’t in Mongolia for its vast, windswept scenery or historic monasteries. The 30-year-old engineer has technology on the brain–specifically, the 50 personal digital assistants Mongolia’s government hopes will help puncture the country’s inflated maternal death rate. Although maternal deaths occur throughout the country, which is nearly the size of Alaska, the nomadic herders who make up one-third of Mongolia’s population are difficult for health workers to reach and care for.

Sandhu’s self-appointed task is to discover firsthand exactly what the PDAs can–or can’t–accomplish. “We don’t know if they will help,” he said. “We need to understand how to integrate the technology into local systems to figure out if they make sense in the first place.”

In Mongolia, Sandhu is drawing on the so-called human-centered design approach of Agogino’s Berkeley lab, a bottom-up philosophy that begins the design process in communities, not in concrete rooms. “We discover their needs and then match those needs to the best solution,” Agogino explained.

Why Mongolian mothers are dying:
The same Mongolian landscape that awes Sandhu endangers its inhabitants, and the low-tech lifestyle of Mongolian herders presents thorny health challenges for pregnant women in need of frequent, specialized care. Sandhu believes the right resources can greatly reduce the death rate, but are PDAs the key? He’s trying to find out, and he’s not entirely sold on using handheld devices to track vulnerable patients…

Of course, the contributions to the world’s poor by people like Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who made his fortune in tech and intends to give a sizeable portion of that money away, may well be incalculable. But it’s young engineers like Sandhu, Hassounah and Rebeca Hwang, profiled in the second installment of this series, who are putting that money to work while overcoming difficult conditions and language and cultural barriers. They’re the feet on the street, bringing technology moguls’ lofty philanthropic ambitions to people who may never have heard of those tech billionaires.

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Written by Aman

April 10, 2007 at 5:19 am

Posted in Global Health

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