A powerful, engaging, and global conversation took place at the 2012 Social Good Summit in New York City (September 22-24). The deeper message behind the projects, initiatives, and innovations, was to become engaged in something greater than yourself to make a change in this world. Now more than ever before, as local communities within this broader global context, we’re at a better place to engage in innovative solutions for problem solving. The Summit was a collaboration of Mashable, United Nations Foundation, 92Y, United Nations Development Programme, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Ericsson.
Local health departments need to keep up with today’s technologies but also prepare for the challenges and opportunities that tomorrow brings. Some of these stories show how cost-effective solutions can come about in low resource settings. I hope to inspire you with these stories and move you to develop new initiatives in your community.
While you read these stories, consider how similar ideas can be initiated in your community.
- What resources are needed?
- What kind of public-private partnership should you look for? Which organizations should you approach?
- What kind of business plan should you create?
Unleashing The Power Of Open Innovation In Government
Todd Park, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, the White House
- Make new data available to the public;
- Take already available but unusable data and make it usable; and
- Make entrepreneurs and innovators aware of the government data.
Park said “You take the data that’s already there and jujitsu it, put it in machine-readable form, let entrepreneurs take it and turn it into awesomeness.”
As a result of his initiatives at both HHS and now the White House, Park has inspired developers to create “…products or services helping tens of thousands of people improve their health service experience around the country.”
For more information visit http://www.hdiforum.org.
The answer to the above question? “No,” said Josh Nesbit, it isn’t the device that will end it but the people using the mobile device that can.
According to Nesbit “A billion people will never see a doctor in their lives, but 90% of the world’s population is covered by mobile.” He followed to say, “50% of the people in Sub-Saharan Africa own phones.”
His organization’s efforts have already seen results in initiatives in India. Vaccination coverage has gone from 60% to 90% coverage.
An interesting example he shared was of a $15 camera device that can take holographic pictures to remotely analyze blood samples. That in itself shows how far a mobile device can go to support areas with no clinics and health services.
For more information on Nesbit’s organization, http://medicmobile.org.
How Google Earth is Changing the World
Rebecca Moore, Engineering Manager, Google Earth Outreach & Earth Engine Google, Inc.
We all have our preference in search engines, but most people know how far Google has gone to create innovations beyond just simple searches. Rebecca Moore shared examples of Google Earth Outreach. Now you ask, what is this service? Google Earth Outreach provides tools to nonprofits to help raise awareness, increase decision-making and engage stakeholders.
This service provides free versions of the following tools but advanced, fee-based versions are available as well: Google Earth; Google Earth Engine; Google Maps Engine; Open Data Kit; Spreadsheet Mapper; Custom Maps for Google Maps; Google Fusion Tables; Google Maps API; Google Street View; and Google Map Maker.
How are these services helpful to public health?
Researchers are constantly making discoveries through Google Earth. For instance, scientists discovered a rare type of Coral Reef on the remote shores of Australia. The area was scheduled for oil mining, and once the discovery was made the plans for drilling were stopped. Moore explained how Google Earth enables users to tell a story. For example, the effects of coal mining that includes mountain top removal, which results in debris in communities and subsequent health risks. The localities, especially those indicated sensitive locations on the map, like schools and hospitals can then be mapped to better understand the direct health risk to the community. This Google tool combined with public health knowledge and urban planning can help spur community activism to fight against activity that poses dangerous health risks to the population.
Can your health department use this tool to tell a story?
Shrinking the “Digital Divide”: The Future of Mobile
Larry Irving, Co-Founder, Mobile Alliance for Global Go
Being connected with a purpose was the message that Larry Irving delivered along with needing to focus on outcomes.
Mobile connectivity is changing lives and providing promising solutions to tough problems. Although, as Irving said, “This is the most important device ever for changing the world, but we have to work together to make it work the way we want it to work.” Solutions are hard according to Irving, but his advice was that, “You’re talking about changing business models. You’re talking about changing cultures. You’re talking about changing operational models. And we have to sit down together and figure out how this is going to work.”
His advice for mobile optimization is:
- Hackathons should focus less on solely about a technology and instead focus on how technology can help fill gaps in society and social needs;
- Bring investors and entrepreneurs to the table; and
- Celebrate individuals and groups that are making social good happen with mobile solutions.
Digital Disaster Relief
Wendy Harman, Director of Social Strategy, American Red Cross
David Kobia, Director of Technology Development, Ushahidi
Samantha Murphy, Mashable
Responding and being aware of disastrous situations is indeed a hard job. That’s why the American Red Cross is expanding its services by giving the public a seat at the table. Wendy Harman said this has two components: 1) aggregating big data for situational awareness 2) building a digital volunteer task-force. I recently participated in one of their social media trainings as part of their volunteer task-force and believe that they are moving in the right direction to create a larger digital presence. By leveraging their Digital Operations Center and the use of digital volunteers, they can extend their services through multiple platforms in a new way. To learn more about the American Red Cross’ Digital Operations Center, read here.
Ushahidi stands for “witness” in Swahili. It is an open source project which allows users to crowdsource crisis information to be sent via mobile. David Kobia said that the open source platform allows for data to be visualized on a map, showing stories of different occurrences during crises. For more information, http://www.ushahidi.com/about-us.
Can local health departments use such tools to visualize important data in their communities?
Using Mapping Technology to End Polio
Nicole Newnham, Documentary Film Maker & Writer, The Revolutionary Optimists
Linord Moudou, Anchor & Reporter, Voice Of America
Sherine Guirguis, Communications Specialist, UNICEF
Why is it so important now more than ever to end polio? “If we don’t finish polio now, it will come back,” says Sherine Guirguis. Now we’re closer than ever to eradicate this disease and with support of technology, we’re coming closer to ending it.
Map Your World, is a multi-platform project that puts the power of new technologies into the hands of young change agents, enabling them to map, track, and improve the health of their own communities – and then share their stories of change with each other and with the world. A young group of children called the Daredevils of West Bengal, made their mission to increase polio vaccination in their community (due to a personal story of a child they knew who died of polio). Using paper megaphones and going door to door these children advocated for vaccination. Their tracking only went so far, but with the help of documentary film makers they were able to adopt an open source technology that enables them to keep track of their progress.
How can we engage our communities and target major health issues by creating low cost innovative tools?