Can ICTs Help to Eradicate Tuberculosis in India?

tb

A mother of three, aged 30, living in rural India, she was infected with tuberculosis (TB) in 2012. Her name is Anita.

In the 1950s the world considered that tuberculosis was eradicated. Unfortunately, a half-century later, the epidemic has reappeared. Every year, nine million people fall sick with TB worldwide and 1.5 million die from it. In 2003, the United Nations had to declare the disease a global emergency, again.

No 1 public health issue in India

With three million patients, India accounts for 31 percent of the global TB burden.

In India, tuberculosis is not only deadly; it also means deep misery for the patients. Too often they face discrimination from their family, friends, employers, neighbors, school authorities, etc. When doctors diagnosed Anita with TB, her husband left her. Sick and illiterate, she had to support herself and her children. Of course, it was even more difficult for her to adhere to her treatment schedule.

That was a shame because tuberculosis is actually curable. But it requires a tedious and long term regimen. In order to cure, every patient has to take up to 75 medication doses over six months or more. They also have to go regularly to a health center so they can take their treatment under observation. After two months of treatment, the symptoms of tuberculosis usually wane off. However, the patients are not fully cured yet.

Too often, though, people get tired with the drugs’ side effects and the commute to the health centers. And since medical records are not digitized, doctors lose track. They don’t follow up as they should. As a result, 60 percent of the patients fail following their regimen. What’s worse, they stop their treatment. This is what happened to Anita.

A man-made phenomenon

After a few months, Anita relapsed, but it was too late. Her disease had morphed into a multiple drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). MDR-TB affects three million people worldwide, and it kills 80 percent of the patients.

There is a treatment that is even more difficult to follow. It lasts for two years and includes six months of daily, painful injections. Moreover, the drugs are toxic. They cause many side effects like nausea, thyroid disturbance, and even psychological problems.

Anita suffered these side effects, which brought in unbearable pain. At some point, she was so desperate that she tried to commit suicide. Only the thought of her children stopped her. Also, she was lucky because Operation ASHA (OpASHA) was taking care of her.

A local, meticulous approach

OpASHA is one of the world’s largest nonprofits in tuberculosis treatment and prevention. Dr. Shelly Batra and Sandeep Ahuja started it in 2006.

Back in the 1990s, Dr. Batra started offering free treatments and surgeries to disadvantaged patients. As she needed antiseptics, fluids, anesthetics, she asked her friends and relatives for donations. From 1998 onward, her most regular contributor was Sandeep Ahuja, a government official. In 2006, they teamed up to fight tuberculosis in urban slums and rural-poor communities. This is how Operation ASHA started (”Asha” means “hope”).

Batra and Ahuja decided to take TB care at the doorstep of their patients. In the slums they have used corner shops, health clinics or religious places. They have also sent health workers to villages to give medicine to the patients. That way, people don’t have to go to far away hospitals to get their treatment.

Operation ASHA also developed a portable identification device called eCompliance. It allows them to identify each patient by their fingerprint and significantly improve their follow-up.

Every time Anita took her medication, she had to give her fingerprints. And her health worker had to do it as well. This generated irrevocable evidence that the medicine had been taken in the right conditions. If Anita missed a dose, eCompliance would send an SMS alert to her, her health worker and his supervisor. Her counselor had to meet her within 48 hours and deliver her treatment.

Towards the end of tuberculosis?

how-ecompliance-works

After two years of treatment, Anita recovered and is now completely cured.

Luckily, she is not alone! eCompliance has been implemented in India, Cambodia, Uganda, Dominican Republic and Kenya. Everywhere it has reduced the default rate by 12 times. Today, 98.5 percent of the organization’s patients finish their TB treatment. As fewer and fewer die from the disease or develop its drug resistant form, Operation ASHA is giving hope to millions of people worldwide!

And this is a good news.

ISIF Asia Award Winners for 2015 announced and Community Choice Award open

The Awards recognize initiatives from organizations that have already been implemented, or are in the final stages of implementation, and have been successful in addressing their communities’ needs.

During the 2015 call for nominations, four award winners were selected out of the 78 nominations received across four categories, covering 12 economies in the Asia Pacific. Proposals from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand were assessed by the Selection Committee.

The commitment and continuous support from the Selection Committee to choose the best projects is key to provide legitimacy to this award. We thank Phet Sayo (IDRC), Gaurab Raj Upadhaya (APNIC EC), Rajnesh Singh (Internet Society), Edmon Chung (Dot Asia Organization), George Michaelson (APNIC staff), and David Rowe (ROWETEL, former ISIF Asia grant recipient) for their time, their comments and their eye for detail.

Each winner has received a cash prize of AUD 3,000 to support their work and a travel grant for a project representative to participate at the 10th Internet Governance Forum (Joao Pessoa, Brazil – November 2015) to participate at the awards ceremony, showcase their project, make new professional contacts, and participate in discussions about the future of the Internet.

This year was particularly interesting to receive an application from China, for the very first time since the inception of the ISIF Asia program.

31 applications were accepted for the selection process and are publicly available for anyone interested to learn more about the ingenuity and practical approaches that originate from our region. 16 applications were selected as finalists.

53% for nominations came from private sector and social enterprises, 24% from non-profits, 13% from the academic sector and 10% from government agencies.

The category that received more applications was Innovation on learning and localization with 38%, followed by Code for the common good with 28%, Rights 24% and Innovation on access provision 9%.

86% of the nominated projects are lead by men, only 14% lead by women.

One winner was awarded for each category, three from non-profits and one from private sector and three projects will be represented by women at the Awards Ceremony.

One of the four award winners will receive the Community Choice Award, an additional AUD 1000 for the project with more online votes from the community. The online vote opened on 9 September until 9 November. The winner of the Community Choice Award will be announced at the Awards ceremony. Cast your vote and support the winners!

DocHers  Batik Fractal  Jaroka  I change my city

Awards winners were selected in four categories, as follows:

  • Innovation on access provision: doctHERs – Pakistan, NAYA JEEVAN. doctHERs is a novel healthcare marketplace that connects home-restricted female doctors to millions of underserved patients in real-time while leveraging technology. doctHERs circumvents socio-cultural barriers that restrict women to their homes, while correcting two market failures: access to quality healthcare and women’s inclusion in the workforce. doctHERs leapfrogs traditional market approaches to healthcare delivery and drives innovative, sytems change.
  • Code for the common good: Batik Fractal – Indonesia, Piksel Indonesia Company. Piksel Indonesia is creative social enterprise founded in 2007 and registered as legal entity in 2009. Piksel Indonesia is the creator of Batik Fractal and jBatik Software. Through a yearlong research about batik and science, we then developed a modeling software application to create batik design generatively and presented the innovation in 10th Generative Art International Conference in Milan Italy. In 2008, this innovation funded by Business Innovation Fund SENADA USAID and created jBatik v.1 and focus to empower batik artisans in Bandung. Since that time, Piksel Indonesia is working to empower batik and craft artisans in all Indonesia especially in Java and Bali. Currently, we have trained around 1400 artisans to use jBatik software. The training was firstly organized by the local government in each rural area and villages where batik artisans usually live. As an innovation, the use of the software into traditional art needs intensive training and continued the effort. Through several training levels in mastering the use of jBatik software, the artisans can incorporate technology to develop their traditional craft work. The artisans are not only now have access to affordable technology and use the technology to develop their batik, but also have been proven to contribute to increase productivity, bring more sales and increase their profit which lead to improved income.
  • Innovation on learning and localization: Jaroka Mobile Based Tele-Healthcare – Pakistan, UM Healthcare Trust. We aim to devise newer and effective ways for bringing a rapid change in healthcare domain for rural communities. We have launched Jaroka to lower the cost of delivering care dramatically by leveraging ICT to deliver the scarcest resource, medical expertise, remotely. Jaroka Tele-Healthcare model utilizes internet and mobile platform to extend tele-healthcare services in rural Pakistan. This includes voice, Short Text Messaging (SMS),Multimedia Messaging (MMS),GPRS/Edge and VSAT to quickly and efficiently extend medical advice to Rural Health Workers (RHWs) in the field by connecting them to our network of specialists in cities and abroad. This model also includes Pakistan’s First Health Map through which the latest and live healthcare information is shared with relevant stakeholder across Pakistan to improve the healthcare in Pakistan.Through this project over 130,000 has been provided treated at hospitals and in fields.
  • Rights: I Change My City – India, Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy. Ichangemycity.com is a hyper-local social change network that has created communities of citizens in Bengaluru, keen on solving city centric problems and has resolved around 10,000 complaints by connecting them to various government agencies. The site has tried to help solve issues ranging from garbage collection, poor street lighting, potholes and security related issue in the suburbs. It has also provided citizens with useful information on how much funds have been allocated to wards and constituencies and how the same has been uitilised. The unique power of ichangemycity.com is that it networks people locally to address issues of common concerns. It connects people on-line to bring them together off-line for civic engagement on the ground. The multiplicity of various government departments and the paperwork involved acts as a deterrent for many individuals to connect with civic agencies. Ichangemycity.com tries to address this problem by being a seamless bridge between government and citizens. Ichangemycity.com works on the 4C mantra- Complaint, Community, Connect, and Content.

Apply Now for 2015 eNGO Challenge

eNGO-Slider-04_V2

The 2015 eNGO Challenge Award aspires to create an ecosystem by recognizing and honouring NGOs which are using Information Communication Technology (ICT) and digital media tools for good governance and practices that are benefiting societies and communities at large. It is a joint initiative of Public Interest Registry (PIR) and Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF).

The eNGO Challenge is open in six categories for best use of ICT, mobile, digital media & new or social media by an NGO for:

    • Best Use of Website & Internal Tools (Website):website
      This category focuses on NGOs that are using website to showcase their activities, projects and local content to get networking and support from funding agencies. This category also welcomes NGOs that create awareness on certain issues through campaigning.

 

  • Best Use of Mobile content & Apps (Mobile):mobile
    This category focuses on NGOs that have used mobile tools/Apps for their internal &external communication to drive social change. For example,an NGOis eligible to apply under this category that uses connectivity through mobile phones, sms, video calling or any other means to engage and empower communities at large.

 

 

  • Best Use of e-Commerce (e-Commerce):ecommerce
    This category focuses on NGOs who have used ICT and digital media tools such as e-Commerce, mobile phones, online shopping and social media networkssuch as Facebook & Twitter to promote their business meant for the benefit of a community. For example, an NGO is eligible to apply under this category that usesa website or social media networks for the promotion and trading of products for the benefit of a community.

 

 

  • Best Use of Software Automation & Networking (Tools):tools
    This category focuses on NGOs that use digital media tools for improving and enhancing their organizational efficiency by using networking and software tools such as Wi-Fi, Skype, Tally etc. For example,an NGO is eligible to apply under this category thatuses video-conferencing technology to connect with their regional partners or does staff capacity building program with various ICT tools.

 

 

  • Best Use of social Media (Social Media): Slocial Media
    The category focuses on NGOs that use social media as a tool to get solutions for and from the communities. For example, an NGOis eligible to apply under this category that uses Facebook and twitter to engage communities or inform them about issues.

 

 

  • Best use of e-Content (incl. Audio / Visual / Radio): econtent
    The category focuses on NGOs that empower people to use video or radio to help communities raise their voice for their problems. For example,an NGO is eligible to apply under this category that facilitates people to record video or participate through community radio to share messages or register complains or highlight social issues.

 

The eNGO Challenge Award is open to any registered NGO from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. There are no charges applicable for the eNGO Challenge Award Nomination process.

Your NGO should fulfill the conditions of being an active & ICT based organization. Interested entities can take part in eNGO Challenge by either applying online or contacting expert panel for the nomination process through engochallenge@gmail.com

Google for Nonprofits Expands to 10 Asia-Pacific Economies

Asia_FB

Congratulations to non-governmental organizations in the Asia-Pacific region. In partnership withTechSoup, Google is now expanding its Google for Nonprofits program to ten new economies: Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Nonprofits can now apply to join the program to access a suite of free Google products and tools, including:

  • Google Ad Grants: Free AdWords advertising to promote their website on Google through keyword targeting.
  • Google Apps for Nonprofit: A free version of the Google Apps business productivity suite, including Gmail, Docs, Calendar, and more.
  • YouTube Nonprofit Program: Build their online presence with YouTube and overlay cards on their videos that link directly to their website.

Personally, I’ve used the Google for Nonprofits platform at two different organizations and it was a game-changer at both, specifically Google Apps.

The service can power enterprise-grade email services with a few clicks, giving organizations a legitimate yourname@NGOorganization.org email address (ie. not Gmail.com or Yahoo.com) and powerful email support systems that are actually easy to use. Google Apps also comes with their Drive, Sheets, Docs, and Forms tools, which can totally replace the Microsoft Office software suite and I find far superior to Microsoft’s online software products.

Nonprofits organizations can also leverage One Today, Google’s fundraising platform for Android devices. The app highlights cool projects from different organizations each day, and users can donate if they want to support the cause.

So if you have an NGO in the 10 new economies, get Google for Nonprofits today. You’ll be so glad you did!

Can MOOCs Improve India’s Higher Education?

mooc

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) exploded in popularity in 2013. With the ease of enrollment (I myself have registered for one) and low costs, some MOOCs have drawn more than 160,000 participants from around the world. For countries with mushrooming populations like India, MOOCs offer much promise. India has a gross university enrollment rate (GER) of only 18% and a youth population of 234 million. Tasked with increasing enrollment rates to 30% by 2020, MOOCs can provide the seats that India needs. But as with any new technology, the government and universities are exploring how to best implement and blend MOOCs with existing models.

What are India’s main HigherEd challenges?

The Indian government is focusing on expansion, equity and excellence in higher education for the next few years. India will need 14 million seats in 5 years to meet its GER goals. Considering this, one can easily decide that brick and mortar schools will not be the primary solution. Quality of education has slipped severely over time due to lack of regulation and scarcity of instructors. Although private universities have helped increase seats, some institutions have only focused on graduating the most students possible.

So what’s the deal with MOOCs?

MOOCs typically have one instructor who teaches thousands of students across the world. While enrollment rates are high, the same can’t be said of completion rates, which are typically less than 10%. The main difficulty with MOOCs is providing certificates after completion. Completion rates lie at about 26% for classes that have some type of certification, showing that certificates do motivate student to pass and complete courses.

Research has shown that students who do complete the courses are generally not motivated by affordability. Also, most MOOC participants already have a bachelors or masters degree. This cannot be easily explained but it does show that those who cannot afford higher education do not have access to MOOCs or are uninterested.

How are MOOCs currently being used in India?

India has the second highest user population, at around 12%. A number of Indian universities have launched their own MOOCs, often in collaboration with American universities. The government announced its own platform called Swayam. Using the openEdx platform, students can take the courses for free and only pay for the certificate of completion. Another interesting initiative is Skill Up India. The platform features classes ranging from emergency first response to entrepreneurial skills. As the name denotes, the mission is to improve the employability and entrepreneurial abilities of Indian youth.

Can MOOCs Improve India’s Higher Education?

Universities have struggled to balance the relationship between quality and quantity. MOOCs can provide a transparent and measurable quality at large scale. A comparative study at MIT showed that MOOC students learned a tad bit more than traditional student. Blended instruction was the most beneficial to students. Certain science classes have incorporated labs and this can be utilized in all fields. MOOCs, similar to Skill Up India, might be promising to post graduates who would like to improve their employability or entrepreneurial toolkit.

Equity is an important piece with Indian higher education goals. MOOCs have the promise of providing education to those outside the brick and mortar; however, they currently aren’t reaching that demographic. With Internet access at around 20%, increasing Internet access will increase the availability of MOOCs to the wider population.

Angelina Nonye-John is a researcher and writer with Mansa Colabs

How NextDrop is Mixing Water, Data and ICT in India

NEXTDROP

In many homes with piped in the developing world, piped water is only available a few hours at a time, and in some cases, they can go up to ten days without it. If they miss the water supply window, then the opportunity to collect and store the water has passed for the next 2-10 days. To ensure receiving water for their families, many low-income families must have someone waiting at home at all times. So a lack of water also becomes a lack of freedom for many women and children.

As a solution, social business NextDrop was founded , and it began by sending messages to about 15,000 households in the southern Indian twin cities of Hubli-Dharwad. The service informs subscribers via SMS about 60 minutes in advance of when the water service will be switched on, switched off, and whether it is contaminated or affected by low pressure. The information is gathered the same way: Through the use of mobile phones, the service workers who manually open and close valves provide them with real time information on the water delivery.

NextDrop’s young staff do not know whether to call themselves a social enterprise, or a tech start up, since they have received funding for both types of ventures. The startup built upon a novel team project that won University of California Berkeley’s Big Ideas competition. They work in conjunction with the local government, while at the same time gathering data that shows the structural problems with water delivery. It is an exercise in openness on behalf of a public delivery service. NextDrop has now expanded to Bangalore, where they have partnered with the Water Supply and Sewerage Board to supply city-wide services.

To sign up, customers have to give NextDrop a missed call on a dedicated phone number. The system allows them to track the customer’s location via GPS, narrowing it down to three valve areas. They will register the user to the first one, send them their first delivery message, and ask for feedback to whether they received the water or not. That way they have them correctly allocated within three text messages. A simpler solution may have seemed to ask new customers for their address, but in many suburbs and settlements in India post codes are rarely used, so, NextDrop says, GPS is the best option.

Is it a solution or just a plug in the leak?

There are two types of payments that the poor must make to obtain their water supply. First there is the actual cash payment in exchange for an ideally reliable water supply. The second ones are called “coping costs”, which are “payments that are outside the system and that ought not to be required,” but that the poor must pay in order to gain access to water.

The first coping costs is what are known as “informal payments,” which can vary from burdensome hospitality to outright bribes. The second coping cost is the time lost waiting for water since it has “the same impact of reducing poor peoples’ incomes, since time spent collecting water, or lying ill in bed cannot be spent earning money elsewhere” (UNDP, World Bank). NextDrop eliminates many of the coping costs that come with having to stay at home to wait for the water; the time and energy that could be spent in a wage-earning job.

Yet the third type of coping cost is the one created by coping mechanisms such as NextDrop itself. The service creates a newer, albeit much smaller, cost. As the UNDP study suggests, theses emerging new costs are “cash payments that are not contemplated in the original design of the water scheme, but which pay for real services that are made necessary by the scheme’s inadequacies” NextDrop would not be needed if there were a 100% reliability of water delivery to the different areas of the city.

Improving services through direct feedback

NextDrop allows citizens to report whether the information the government provided is correct. So, after the initial SMS saying that water will arrive in an hour, they send you a follow-up message to see if that was indeed the case. If a lot of people in the same area report not receiving water, then the government knows there is a problem.

Anu Sridharan, co-founder and CEO told Forbes that they are “seeing feedback work firsthand within the water utility company… People lower in the organization finally have the data to back up the fact that their job is hard, and that they are being put in an impossible situation. And now they are coming together at meetings, and they are able to tell their superiors, hey, there are all these issues, let’s work on fixing them… the utility companies themselves are asking us for citizen feedback, so they can keep track of their direct reports.”

When Hubli-Dharwad’s water utility used NextDrop’s monitoring tools across a three-month period, over 17,500 families got water when they otherwise would not. These families were at the end of their area’s supply cycle and wouldn’t receive sufficient water if the system lacked proper pressure. By engaging valvemen to report water pressure when they turned water on, and relaying this to utility engineers responsible for decision-making about those areas, NextDrop enables real-time adjustments to ensure equitable supply.

A water data bank

NextDrop wishes to collect as much data as possible in order to develop a predictive system, which could potentially have a big impact on quality of service. A lot of this data is gained from field visits by the team, who map new areas to inform these models. Much of the data is already within the knowledge of the utility companies, but is not yet aggregated. As this system is fed with more information by customer and engineer feedback, and by previous lessons and historical trends, it will become increasingly effective and will enable the network to surpass its current efficiency levels of 60-80 per cent.

Andrea Alarcón Sojet is a journalist and online media consultant in Bogota, Colombia.