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Tuesday
Feb152011

Recycled Phones Could Save Lives

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(STANFORD, Calif.) - Josh Nesbit had a simple idea - one that turns old cell phones into lifesavers.

As the goalie on Stanford University's soccer team, Nesbit earned a full scholarship. But it was his hustle off the field that makes him a superstar.

During his sophomore summer break four years ago, Nesbit volunteered at an AIDS clinic in Malawi, one of Africa's poorest, least-developed nations. In Malawi, 85 percent of the people live in rural areas and most survive on a dollar a day. Nesbit volunteered at St. Gabriel's Hospital to help children with HIV.

"This particular hospital was serving about a quarter-million people, spread a hundred miles in every direction. So you literally had patients walking 60, 80, a hundred miles to access care. Basically one nurse would get onto a motorcycle and drive 10 hours a day trying to track down patients," Nesbit said.

Often, community health workers, who travel miles to isolated African villages to see patients, have to lug boxes of medical records with them. Paper records can be lost or damaged, especially on long trips.

His idea was to use high-tech open source software on a laptop, along with some solar power, and give away old cell phones so that local health workers can work on the frontlines of global health.

Back at Stanford, surrounded by high-tech engineers, Nesbit found a software guru who could help make it happen. Then, back in Malawi, Nesbit set up an ad hoc network using solar panels, a laptop and cell phones. With the software, paper records could be transformed into text messages. Soon the health workers were texting a hundred miles in each direction.

The new technology allowed workers at St. Gabriel's to respond to emergencies, diagnose patients, and keep track of their medical records, all via texts -- saving time, resources, and lives.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio