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Technology for the Greater Good

Technology is not always about profit and big companies. Sometimes it is actually a matter of life and death. The example used in an article by Julia King is the story of a Tanzanian mother who carried her sick child for three days to a rural clinic only to find that the clinic's inventory of malaria medication was depleted: It's a matter of life and death for the mother and child. But from a business standpoint, it's a straightforward supply chain issue. Antimalarial medicines ““ with a 96% cure rate ““ are available. Yet far-flung clinics have a hard time keeping them in stock. Having adequate supplies when and where they are needed is critical, because the medication isn't fully effective unless patients take it within 24 hours of contracting malaria. In the United States, some healthcare providers are using text messaging to deliver health and wellness information to those who ask for it. Such applications can say anything from suggesting medical tests to reminding patients not to eat or drink before surgery. It was suggested that information systems similar to these should be tested in Tanzania so people would have a way of knowing in advance if medications were unavailable. They could be notified not through text messages but through local information sources. Initial tests showed that a staggering 25% of remote facilities were out of all medications. There is a bright side to finding this bit of information. Learning how often a site goes runs out of stock means knowing how often the stock needs to be replenished. However, it is important to keep costs low for a project such as this. In this instance, providing more affordable phones to these areas would make the dispersal of information simpler. Similar technology has also been used in India to encourage healthier food preparation and education. However, to create such technology, one must have a solid knowledge of local culture and customs. There are certainly hurdles one will face in using technology for the greater good, but in this instance, cost cannot outweigh the benefits.

About Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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