Back in November, my project partner Oksana and I took part in the Break Poverty Hackathon by Devs Without Borders. Over 120 developers in Toronto connected with over 60 developers in Nairobi to develop solutions for low income rural areas in Kenya. The solutions were all focused on using the emergence of mobile technologies to expand education, business, and farming in impoverished areas.
Our focus was to bring medical knowledge and education to areas with little to no access to the internet but at least basic cellular service. In some areas, the only way to access relevant and sometimes time-sensitive information is by visiting the clinic, which can be anywhere from 100-400 km away. If professional help is unavailable, patients are left uninformed, and potentially untreated, as access to emergency services like ambulances is unreliable.
Our project, Zote aimed to fill the large gap in information delivery in a reliable, targeted and timely manner to reduce the health burden on the clinic. Our solution was a scalable, expandable local database that could be accessed via local community intranets (which becoming more and more prevalent in these isolated areas), through a web-based interface used by medical staff at community centres, and by allowing the wider public to request information, instructions, and/or solutions to common medical issues using SMS. The success of SMS-based reminders in improving patient compliance and decreasing health burden have been proven through various epidemiological studies in a number of developing countries. And with SMS-based applications already widely used throughout Kenya’s rural areas, this seems like an idea way to provide medical education to impoverished areas. Using Twilio as our SMS distribution service and a custom database, api, and web application, the solution could be easily implemented on even on the more antiquated systems currently in place in these areas.
You can watch a demo of the functional application below: