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Parsons Students Use SMS Technology To Get Medicines To African Villages

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on February 7, 2010

I keep discovering the most amazing social innovation work using social media being done by Parsons students. Check out this use of simple SMS technology, available in many African villages, to track medicine inventories at the local level.

One of the big problems in preventing and managing illness in Africa is the failure of governments to get medicines they have bought or received from outside agencies down to the village level. Sometimes the reason is simple inefficiency. Sometimes it is corruption. Villagers can complain but can’t prove they haven’t received what is promised. “Stock-outs” of medicines for malaria, TB, HIV and other diseases at local public health clinics is common.

In May of 2009, Oxfam and Health Action International (HAI) Africa convened 30 civil society organizations (CSOs) and policy-makers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to examine strategies for reducing stock-outs of medicines in Africa. Using Google Maps and SMS, the students were able to track 10 key medicines in four African countries.

The students who created this initiative— Claudio Midolo and Michael Ballard— belonged to the Parsons Open Society Institute and the CDT—Communication Design Technology program. Check out this video. And think about how we can use SMS in the US to make healthcare and wellness better.

Reader Comments


February 9, 2010 10:42 AM

This shows that with creativity and passion on social transformation, most of the world's seemingly intractable problems can be resolved. IT is bringing the world together as one big family.The days of dictators and incompetent leaders are numbered. We are moving towards a more caring, socially responsible and sustainable future.

Kelly Stracke

February 18, 2010 12:57 PM

I like this simple approach to solving a problem. I hope to see more of this simple utilization technology to help with other current problems. Keep up the great work Claudio, Michael, Parsons Open Society Institute, and anyone else who was involved in this project.

Keep up the great work!

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April 21, 2010 10:18 AM

The above thought is smart and doesn’t require any further addition.
It’s perfect thought from my side.
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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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