Using ‘evil’ technology in the fight against poverty
Technology is neither inherently good or bad; it is, rather, humanity’s use of technology that can be considered as evil or virtuous. Certain modern tools have the reputation for being capable of carrying out despicable deeds and are, therefore, surrounded by controversy. Artificial intelligence and drones are two of the most widely commentated on and feared applications of modern science. Despite this prevailing negative perception, combatting poverty is happens to be one of the good uses of AI and drones.

Drones Revealing Inequalities

Drones, or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), are often used in violent attacks and warfare, but they, along with their human operators, are also doing wonderful things across the world. Photographer Jonny Miller used drones to capture cities and show the line dividing the rich and the poor.

He captured images of lush, green golf courses directly up against dirt roads and shack neighborhoods. You can see giant mansions with trees and acres of grass next door to brown areas with buildings squished into a small plot. Miller’s project “Unequal Scenes” is raising awareness about poverty and inequality, which would be impossible without drone photography.

Drones Mapping Land

Another way that drones are helping alleviate poverty is through land mapping. More than half the world’s population, usually women, cannot prove they own their land. This is especially problematic in Kosovo where most of the men and boys were murdered during the Balkan wars in the late 90s. The women who remained have worked tirelessly to rebuild their homes and their communities. One enormous roadblock is their inability to use their vast land resources to provide for themselves economically.

These women do not have any sort of documentation for their lands once owned by their husbands. One woman explained that she had applied for loans to build her business, but she was repeatedly turned down because she lacked “property documents to put down as a guarantee.” These communities do not have the means to hire the land surveyors necessary for official registration. Property owners with potentially good, profitable land are powerless without official documentation for their land.

However, drones are helping these women. The World Bank Group’s Global Land and Geospatial unit dispatch drones to map out land plots for a fraction of the cost of traditional land surveyors, giving the Kosovan women the ability to register their lands and ultimately invest in their own property.

AI for Safety and Health

Artificial intelligence (AI), also referred to as “machine learning,” is the “capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.” It’s often associated with movies about robots destroying humanity that are based on the real fear that one day these machines will become self-aware and grow tired of serving humanity. “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” warned Stephen Hawking in 2014. Despite this destructive potential of AI, in the real world, it is currently transforming agriculture and changing businesses in Africa.

One article argues that Africa is amid the “fourth industrial revolution … ushered in by the power of AI.” Many innovative African business leaders have embraced AI to improve productivity and efficiency. One example is the Moroccan company Casky that uses AI to perform analytics on data sent from devices on motorcycle helmets. This has been improving riding habits and providing more accurate insurance premiums, reducing costs and improving safety for riders.

One Algerian firm helps local doctors provide cancer detection and treatment for their patients. The AI creates models that can diagnose those who are unable to visit hospitals for formal examinations. This has the potential to save many lives of those who don’t have the means to get regular checkups and screenings.

AI Helping Businesses

Another instance showing the advantages of AI is the reduction of consumer costs from companies like Niotek in Egypt. This company used AI to improve service quality and reduce the likelihood of human error. AI is also reducing overall costs for farmers and helping to improve their yields in India where RFID tags are being used in dairy cows to provide important information about the cows’ diets and overall health. The information is then stored in a “cow cloud” where it is “AI-analyzed.” The farmers receive alerts about any potential issues or if a cow requires their attention. This can reduce costs and increase efficiency for the farmers.

These are just a few of the many examples of good uses of AI and drones.  They have been especially useful in the fight against poverty. Cases like these prove that technology cannot be inherently evil and that there are good uses of AI and drones. While some individuals may want to use modern equipment to destroy the world, there are plenty of people looking to use the same tools to improve the world.

Sarah Stanley

Photo: Flickr

UNICEF Innovation Fund
UNICEF’s Innovation Fund is a newly established, non-thematic, pooled fund which has been specifically designed to finance early stage, open-source technology that benefits children. When companies are considered for funding, three core areas are the focus:

  • Products for Youth
  • Real-Time Information
  • Infrastructure

UNICEF’s Innovation Fund

UNICEF started its Innovation Fund back in 2016, and raised millions of dollars in the hopes of expanding technology for education for children of poverty across the globe. The Fund offers innovators in developing countries a pooled funding mechanism to help them take their tested projects to the next stage.

The Innovation Fund allows UNICEF to quickly assess, fund and grow open-source solutions that can improve children’s lives. Financial and technological support is available for companies using technology for education in innovative ways to improve the world. The Fund has made 57 investments in 33 countries, totaling $3.9 million in investments. UNICEF has set a goal to invest in 30 more start-ups in 2018. To date, the Innovation Fund has already invested in twelve companies since the start of 2018, with six in April alone.

Pixframe

The first three newest companies under the Products for Youth are Pixframe, Teliportme and Suzhou Crenovator Lab Corp. The last three newest companies funded under Real-time Information are Datawheel Chile, Thinking Machines and Dymaxion Labs.

Pixframe is a Mexico-based company developing a software platform leveraging games-based learning technology for education called Towi. This software strengthens children’s cognitive skills across different areas including memory and attention. The system evaluates children’s skills through a series of activities, which are then analyzed to develop personalized training paths.

Children with disabilities in countries like Mexico face particular challenges as schools’ capacities to diagnose and treat learning disabilities are limited. Towi test can be applied to a group of students simultaneously, without specialized supervision and in just one session, paving the way for a greater scale of disability care.

Teliportme and Suzhou Crenovator Lab Corp

Teliportme, based in India, uses WebVR technology for education by creating immersive and enhanced experiences for children. Immersive education has proven to help children understand concepts faster, while learning about and experiencing things what would not have been otherwise achieved. VR experiences can provide a new way of learning topics and making them more exciting and immersive.

Suzhou Crenovator Lab Corp is a Chinese company that uses a mobile application, called VRMaker, for Android-based phones which enables children to think, design and create content for VR devices.

The visual programming technology for education is specifically designed with a variety of digital assets that can be used to create everything from stories to education content and games. Children can express themselves with pictures and sound in a virtual world, with links to creating virtual reality stories.

Datawheel Chile

Datawheel Chile is developing a country-wide fully integrated solutions and data visualization engine that merges, optimizes and integrates multiple data sets and streams from multiple official sources, to empower decision makers to make better informed decisions. This technology for educations expands past the classroom and into the community.

Traditional data distribution efforts fail to visualize and deliver data in an integrated manner. Datawheel provides useful insights for the design and evaluation of education, childhood and youth policies. It will also help local governments make informed decisions and monitor key indicators.

Thinking Machines and Dymaxion Labs

Thinking Machines is a Philippines-based company that encompasses a software framework that leverages Natural Language Processing techniques. The software accurately matches huge numbers of records across data silos. In 2016, Thinking Machines was able to link three different Philippine government databases and accurately match records in a fraction of the manual time.

Dymaxion Labs in Argentina addresses the growth of informal settlements in Latin America. These settlements often do not have critical public services such as sanitation and thus result in health and environmental hazards, especially for children.

Census data collection makes it difficult to monitor the growth of such settlements since it is conducted every 10 years (on average).Dymaxion Labs’ solution is also useful for rapid response when strong climate events and humanitarian crises occur in risky zones. It could also be used to monitor population spread and changes as a result.

Through its investments, the Innovation Fund generates value by strengthening communities of problem-solvers, increasing open source intellectual property and growing technology for education to bring results for children.

– Richard Zarrilli
Photo: Flickr

Waste-to-Energy in Ethiopia Increasing Electricity and Decreasing WasteIn Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, a landfill the size of 36 soccer fields is being turned into renewable energy, meeting the needs of 30 percent of the city’s electricity. The landfill, previously the only waste disposal site in Addis Ababa, made the news in 2017 due to an onsite landslide that killed 114 people. The new energy plant, known as Reppie Waste-to-Energy in Ethiopia, plans to turn 80 percent of the city’s waste into energy each day.

Waste is turned into energy through incineration, a process already popular in many European countries. About 25 percent of European waste is turned into energy and there are over 100 waste-to-energy plants in both France and Germany. Strict European Union emissions standards ensure that no harmful emissions from the incineration process enter the atmosphere, standards that the Reppie project will be held to as well.

Electricity is produced directly from the burning of the waste. As garbage is burned in a combustion chamber, heat is produced. The heat boils water, creating steam, which in turn produces energy in a turbine. The emissions that occur in this process are cleaned before they enter the atmosphere, making this a renewable and sustainable source of clean energy.

The Reppie facility came into development out of a partnership between the government of Ethiopia and several international partners, including Chinese and Danish companies. This partnership came together to tailor the needs of the new energy plant to sub-Saharan Africa, as opposed to the waste-to-energy plants already operating in Europe.

The Ethiopian project further protects the environment and its citizens from harmful toxins that are released into groundwater supplies and the atmosphere at landfill sites. Methane is a harmful greenhouse gas that adds to the negative effects of climate change and is typically produced at landfill sites; this project will reduce methane emissions, as well as save space and generate electricity.

In addition to providing energy to three million people, the Reppie project plans to make an additional three million bricks from the waste and recover 30 million liters of water from the landfill. These materials will be additionally used to benefit the population of Addis Ababa. Furthermore, the plant will create hundreds of jobs for people who previously relied on scavenging at the waste site, a dangerous occupation.

In Ethiopia, only 27 percent of the population has access to electricity. While that number includes rural areas, in only urban areas such as Addis Ababa, the number rises to almost 92 percent. However, the Reppie plant is connected to the national grid and the introduction of waste-to-energy in Ethiopia will spread from urban areas and be able to serve rural areas as well, increasing access to electricity to all Ethiopians.

The Reppie Waste-to-Energy in Ethiopia will aid in reducing poverty conditions through increasing access to electricity, creating jobs and improving the environment to the benefit of human health. The plant will additionally be a model for similar plants across the continent of Africa. Already, seven other plants are being planned. These plants together will leave a lasting positive impact on both the environment and the energy needs of people across the continent.

– Hayley Herzog

Photo: Flickr

https://www.flickr.com/photos/magnumppi/38484906775/in/photolist-21CMcZr-TgU1uE-RxNWbP-gkdW7q-sa5LVn-dJzokZ-pabckr-Vh1U5g-UhZrX6-TfWdoR-ei1iWe-RmwaAU-TBJyTd-c44j6Q-qtGCL6-oWuA2x-qwPvqS-U964us-SY4Nu4-22C8TUw-rjM2aJ-h1bHnB-9s88dG-ebeTs9-9zb6Wc-rn4NyK-PU85gp-qKaLku-jEhYAf-fh1RhG-LY5Rwc-9zBnJC-h9ZxJp-pi9TMR-WbAs4Y-cobF47-UQHaoK-21k3RP2-7Gj4Ap-owwBnd-Pvspiw-GtcC1T-X7fCmZ-RutCcq-QQaakB-YvVZwZ-paQKEd-DCurLt-KYdLi5-Y4V1qtDrones oftentimes conjure images of airstrikes, collateral damage, unmanned surveillance or indiscriminate killing machines controlled remotely. But what if the focus was on how life-saving drones could drop medical supplies in far-flung locations? How can the reaction shift to the ways emergency supplies can be airdropped into some of the world’s most unnavigable locations in a matter of minutes? Enter Zipline.

Insufficient Roads

Zipline is a San Francisco-based company revolutionizing the way urgent medical supplies are being delivered in Rwanda. Known as the land of a thousand hills, Rwanda is one of the continent’s smallest countries with a population of almost 12 million people. Despite its size, Rwanda’s poorly-paved roads, seasonal flooding and impassable mountains make it tremendously difficult to travel extensively and efficiently.

Rwanda’s small population and lack of easily-accessible roads make the country a suitable candidate for these life-saving drones. Rough terrain and road mobility are in fact one of the main reasons why approximately two billion people in rural Africa do not have sufficient access to vital medical supplies, according to the World Health Organization.

Keller Rinaudo, CEO of Zipline, has devised a way to improve access to urgent supplies by using drones that fly over the country’s rough terrain and deliver goods to remote locations. Affordable and efficient, Zipline accomplishes in less than hour what would have traditionally taken a day. Each individual drone, known as a “zip,” has a 6-foot wingspan, can reach top speeds of 70 mph and can carry up to 1.5 kilograms of blood on a single flight. Between October 2016 and August 2017, Zipline completed “1,400 commercial flights and delivered 2,600 units of blood, a quarter of which were for emergency services.”

Expansion

Zipline is expanding further into Africa, beginning delivery services in Tanzania and launching pilot projects elsewhere in Haiti and Papua New Guinea. Beginning in early 2018, the Tanzanian government has expressed its goal of completing 2,000 daily deliveries and establishing the world’s most expansive drone delivery service.

Zipline is also having an impact in Europe. Its life-saving drones have begun delivering supplies between two hospitals in Lugano, Switzerland, with the hope of further expansion in Zurich and Bern.

Accessibility

Professionals using Zipline can order supplies from their mobile phones and can receive their order within 30 minutes. During this time, the Zipline delivery system follows five simple steps:

  1. Zipline receives a text message—or a WhatsApp—by a health worker far away for a medical product they need right away.
  2. Zipline retrieves the product from its distribution center and prepares for take-off.
  3. Within minutes, a confirmation message is sent to the health worker to let them know their order is on its way.
  4. Pilotless, the drone delivers the products gently by parachute at a faster rate than any other mode of transportation. Hospital employees are notified of the delivery via SMS.
  5. The drone returns safely to the distribution center before departing again for its next delivery.

In a 2016 interview with the BBC, Rinaudo explained that flying these life-saving drones is less expensive than the previous delivery method: motorcycles and trucks.

The use of Zipline’s life-saving drones will hopefully continue to expand in providing essential Amazon-esque packages to remote places around the globe.

– Johnny Harounoff

Photo: Flickr

chatbots in Africa
Businesses are slowly introducing chatbots in Africa, as more local users opt for mobile interactions through social media. At the end of 2015, 46 percent of the African population subscribed to mobile services, which is equivalent to more than half a billion people; interestingly, this percentage is expected to increase to 54 percent in 2020.

With such a growing use of smartphones, a chatbot revolution in Africa is not very far away.

 

The Chatbot Revolution

For starters – a chatbot simulates human conversation and are interactive. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI), a chatbot is supported across different messaging platforms including Twitter and Facebook. Here are three chatbots in Africa automate services that are convenient and available 24/7 to users.

 

1. Leo

Recently, the United Bank of Africa (UBA), the Nigerian multinational financial institution, hired Leo — a chatbot. At the launch, Leo displayed a unique way of how bank customers could use social media platforms to carry out their banking activities.

UBA’s chat banker is a Facebook bot, something which the company says is “necessary in today’s fast-paced world with demands for quick-time transactions.” Customers will be able to carry out basic banking facilities like opening a new bank account, checking balances, transferring funds and receiving instant alerts. Additionally, customers will be able to pay bills, get answers to loan queries and applications and check balance statements.

 

2. Nuru

Nuru is created by UXstudio, a Budapest-based Hungarian start-up, and currently is available to users in Kenya and Ghana. This AI chatbot assists users in matters relating to agriculture, classified ads, finances and healthcare.

African farmers looking to sell can use Nuru to set prices. The chatbot automatically configures a price based on the type and the amount they have. The activation of the deal can only occur once the farmers are satisfied. Once activated, the buyers can reach out to the farmers through message or phone call.

For mobile money transactions, users in Kenya heavily rely on mPesa. Nuru integrates the transaction through Messenger — the chatbot asks for a password and, once authenticated, the transactions can successfully take place. Nuru also provides health tips based on questions asked by users.

 

3. Keirabot & Hazie

Keirabot is one of Botsza’s six tailor-made chatbots in Africa.

Botsza’s chatbots currently work across many industries like hotel reservation, flight booking, e-commerce, banks, finance, insurance and customer services. Currently supported on multiple messaging platforms, two chatbots are already operational for users — Haziebot and Keirabot.

Keirabot relieves users from the tiring process of searching homes by utilizing browsing functions via Facebook Messenger or Skype. Various tasks are performed using AI including credit checks, tenants, and comparisons between selling and buying a home.

Hazie, on the other hand, is a recruitment chatbot in Africa that allows job seekers to acquire ideal jobs. Users can simply apply for jobs using social media platforms like Facebook Messenger and Twitter.

 

Challenges

Despite extensive benefits, the revolution of chatbots in Africa faces challenges.

According to The World Bank, African mobile and wireless markets are highly concentrated; in 27 countries, one player has more than 50 percent market share. Monopolies are still present in Africa: eleven in international gateway services and six in wireless internet services.

Additionally, with more than half of the population yet to subscribe to a mobile service, a big challenge for Africa is to connect the unconnected and unleash the economic potential of increased connectivity. Such challenges would also involve the problems of moving text-based interactions to chatbot technology.

 

The Potential Solution

But the African youth may be the answer to such challenges. Sixty percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is under the age of 25, making Africa the world’s youngest region, according to World Economic Forum. Social media giants like Facebook and Google are already developing programs for the people in Africa.

In September 2016, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg visited Nairobi to learn more about mobile money and meet entrepreneurs and developers. The U.S. social media giant later announced that the center would host an “incubator program” to help develop technology start-ups while simultaneously training 50,000 Nigerians in digital skills.

In 2017, Google expanded its Africa initiatives following CEO Sundar Pichai’s visit to Nigeria. Alphabet also plans on increasing the funding for African startups by providing $20 million in grants to digital nonprofits. In April 2016, the company also launched Digital Skills for Africa, an initiative to provide free training (online and face-to-face) to people across 27 countries in Africa.

With such promising ventures, innovative technology in Africa could allow the country to stay on par with the rest of the world.

– Deena Zaidi

Photo: Flickr

Apps That Help Impoverished Countries: iCow
As technology improves around the world, more apps have been developed that aim to help impoverished countries. An example of one of the apps that help impoverished countries is called iCow. iCow is an app that aims to reduce cow mortality rates and educate farmers on proper agricultural practices.

In many African countries, farmers have no formal training. As a result of a lack of formal training in agriculture, farmers do not know how to properly raise farm animals. This is problematic because these farmers are the foundation for growing crops that feed the nation. In an effort to combat this problem, the iCow app was made to help these farmers.

The app in itself is easy to use. After the initial registration, farmers type in information about their cows, such as their weight and calving dates. Once the farmers key in this information, the iCow app can give tailored advice about how to take care of their cows.

Not only does it give tailored information, but the iCow app also gives tips on breeding, animal nutrition and milk production. Farmers will benefit from the specific advice given to care for their cows as well as general advice that will assist them in the future.

The app also works like a calendar for cows. It keeps records about milking schedules and immunization dates. The app provides farmers with good veterinarians in the area for their cows.

Even though the app is called the iCow, this app is not exclusive to Apple products or smartphones. The iCow app is made to work for all mobile devices, so any farmer with a phone can use it.

As a result of its universality and wide availability, nearly 60,000 farmers in Tanzania and Ethiopia have registered to use the iCow app. These farmers are able to breed healthier animals that can be sold and produce food for the nation. These healthier animals are not only better for consumption, but they bring in more money for the farmers.

The iCow app is not only one of the many apps that help impoverished countries, it is an app that helps maintain healthier food security.

Food security is an issue that many impoverished countries face. Finding solutions to these problems is the key to helping raise countries out of poverty. Apps that help impoverished countries, like the iCow app, can change millions of lives. The iCow app aims to ensure that the citizens of impoverished countries are well fed.

– Daniel Borjas

Photo: Flickr

Cardiovascular diseases cause a large number of deaths around the world. Unfortunately, treating cardiovascular diseases in impoverished countries can be difficult. In the African country Cameroon, there are only about 50 cardiologists for about 20 million people. The Cardiopad is an innovative technology that aims to alleviate this problem.

The location of doctors throughout Cameroon tends to disadvantage those who live in rural areas. In the villages around the suburbs, there are general practitioners who treat the villagers. A large number of these practitioners do not have a specialization, so they cannot do much beyond recommending patients go see a specialist if they believe they need one.

If a patient is experiencing chest pains, or shows symptoms of a cardiovascular disease, they make an appointment to see a cardiologist in the city. Because there are so few cardiologists, it can take months before they are seen, and many will die before seeing a specialist.

Arthur Zang, the inventor of the Cardiopad, noticed this issue and set out to fix it. Zang understood that going to see a doctor from the Cameroon villages was difficult, so he invented a way to lessen the need to make a trip to the city. He created the Cardiopad, a tablet device with electrodes that can give a 97.5 percent accurate reading of the heart. Essentially, it is a mobile electrodiagram (ECG).

Although Zang provided general practitioners with the tools to perform a heart scan, they still do not have the proper training to interpret the scans themselves. The information gathered from the Cardiopad is actually sent to the national data center, and it is then received by the cardiologists in the city. Once the cardiologists receive the heart scan, they can interpret the results to see what kind of treatment is needed and can send treatment recommendations back to the general practitioner. The process that would ordinarily take many months can now be done within 20 minutes.

This is a phenomenal step forward for diagnosing and treating cardiovascular diseases in impoverished countries. Now, even in rural Cameroon, local practitioners can work with cardiologists and can properly diagnose and treat cardiovascular diseases.

Furthermore, the technology eases the economic burden of traveling and medical expenses for patients. The Cardiopad only costs $29 a year to use, compared to the staggering costs of going to see a specialist. In this way, the Cardiopad saves time and money for patients in need.

Treating cardiovascular diseases in impoverished countries has become much easier with the Cardiopad. It allows rural residents to get the proper diagnosis they may need in order to save their lives. The Cardiopad is being distributed in Cameroon, India, Gabon and Nepal, and more countries are sure to follow. The Cardiopad can potentially save millions of lives that would have been taken from cardiovascular diseases in impoverished countries.

– Daniel Borjas

Photo: Flickr

Technologies that can help end povertyDespite gloomy predictions for the future among pessimists, humanity develops the tools for a brighter tomorrow. At the Lisbon Web Summit on November 6, 2017, physicist Stephen Hawking discussed the pros and cons of artificial intelligence. Though Hawking is aware of how new technologies threaten jobs, he also believes that such advances can alleviate disease, global warming and poverty. Artificial intelligence isn’t the only gadget in development. Here are four technologies that can help end poverty, provided they’re used the right way.

  1. Blockchain
    Blockchain records transactions made in cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin. These ledgers are publicly available. Brian Singer, a William Blair partner, predicted in 2015 that access to a cheap and transparent payment system through Blockchain would serve emerging markets well.How have Bitcoin and Blockchain helped the world so far? By allowing a transparent ledger, Blockchain prevents falsified land deeds from stealing the land of small farmers. With no need for a physical building, Blockchain can save foreign aid money; through the data provided, Blockchain can optimize a developing economy. Cryptocurrency provides a small, but significant, step in helping impoverished people begin their own businesses.
  2. Smart Survey boxes
    The World Bank reported how Smart Survey boxes in Tajikistan monitor energy usage. These boxes collect data on energy quality and power outages.At first glance, Smart Survey boxes seem an unlikely candidate for technologies that can help end poverty. But having the right data in a crisis ensures that the right cure can be provided. Automated information collection leaves little room for human error and little reason to put volunteers in unsafe areas.

    Utz Pape, a World Bank economist, summarizes the impact of data collection on poverty: “It can help improve data quality of existing surveys, it can help to increase the frequency of data collection to complement traditional household surveys, and can also… improve our understanding of people’s behaviors.”

  3. Genetically Modified Crops
    The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in farming has led to fiery debated in the past decade. But the results are clear. Using seeds designed to resist pests and herbicides, GMOs led to more yields, fewer applications of pesticides, and more profits for farmers, according to a study by Penn State.Stephen Hawking warned about the careless application of technology, and GMOs are no exception. The impact of GMOs on other organisms has not been well documented. But when Penn State concludes that “The technology may be more appropriate for farmers that have difficulty spraying pesticides and herbicides,” it’s easy to see how developing nations benefit from the invention.
  4. Video Games
    Though considered fun distractions in America, video games have immense teaching potential. The United Nations described an initiative in India that taught English to children through mobile phone games.A similar project, in Somalia, taught money management skills to young Somali women. The Somali mobile game project boosted job training and placement for 8,000 people, both male and female, by 2015.

All these inventions— cryptocurrency, data collection, GMOs, and video games— destroyed the world in countless science fiction novels. In the real world, they’re technologies that can help end poverty.

In some ways, the brighter tomorrow has already arrived.

– Nick Edinger

Photo: Flickr

PEEK Software Making Eye Care Easy
Approximately two billion people struggle with impaired eyesight. However, many people in remote areas of developing countries go without vision care because of the high cost and lack of access to medical facilities. According to the Center for Vision in the Developing World, “The developing world cannot yet support the conventional optical industry’s business model.” This is where Peek Vision‘s Portable Eye Examination Kit smartphone software can be instrumental in bringing vision care to impoverished areas.

Once the software is installed, multiple apps on the phone can be used to screen the patient’s eyesight. The smartphone is also paired with a lens adapter to take high-quality photos of the patient’s eyes. Peek Vision states that the apps can view the retina with high-quality imaging, see cataracts clearly for classification, simulate a patient’s eyesight on screen, conduct visual acuity tests as well as color and contrast tests. Before placing it on the market, PEEK software have been tested to ensure accuracy.

Between December 2013 and March 2014, Peek Vision CEO Dr. Andrew Bastawrous conducted an experiment that included 233 participants in central Kenya who suffered from Nakuru eye disease. Half of the participants were given multiple eye tests in a clinic and the other half were tested at home with the Peek Acuity app, one of the multiple apps in the Portable Eye Examination Kit. The results showed that the Peek Acuity app did just as well as the more expensive and extensive tests available in the clinics.

Just in 2015, the app was used in 50 schools in Kenya to screen 20,000 children in a span of two weeks. The app found that 900 of children tested were visually impaired. These children were unaware of this before the screening. Peek reports, “By using Peek, teachers were able to identify pupils who needed help and ensure they were referred for specialist treatment.” Without the app, these children could have possibly gone on longer without receiving vision care.

PEEK software also has the ability to create a database of patients. The photos, diagnosis, personal information and location of the patient can be securely stored in a database. This makes follow-ups easier. Also, it allows for patients to get glasses, medication and other needs to better their vision quickly since their information is readily available.

By turning a smartphone into a vision screening device, the Portable Eye Examination Kit is allowing for easier, cheaper and faster testing for people in remote and or impoverished areas.

Karla Umanzor

Photo: Flickr

Mosquito Death Ray: Technology That Could Save Millions
Mosquitos transmit various diseases including malaria, dengue, yellow fever and Zika. Although both bed nets and insecticides are helpful in fighting off these mosquitos, a new invention is working to completely eliminate these disease-infested bugs: the Mosquito Death Ray.

Developed by Intellectual Ventures, the Mosquito Death Ray zaps mosquitoes to death before they can make human contact. The photonic fence technology creates a force field that can be set up around the perimeter of different areas. These include villages, schools, buildings and fields.

The new technology is still in its beginning stages and is not available commercially. However, once completed and ready for implementation, the Mosquito Death Ray could potentially save the lives of millions.

The technology looks to detect female mosquitoes as reproduction of more mosquitoes would be impossible without them. The gender of the mosquito is determined by their wing beat frequency — female mosquitoes have a lower wing beat frequency compared to male mosquitoes.

Eliminating mosquitoes is an important step in saving the lives of millions. Malaria, dengue and yellow fever account for millions of deaths and hundreds of millions of illnesses every year.

Yellow fever affects more than 120 million people in regions including Africa, India and the Americas.

Over 2 billion people worldwide are affected by dengue fever, which affects one’s ability to function in day to day activities.

Malaria is extremely prevalent in 91 countries and impairs the working capacity of millions of people, linking it to poverty and developmental issues. There are over 500 million cases each year with the majority of the cases infecting Africans. Each year, malaria kills 2.7 million people.

Without mosquitos transmitting these diseases from person to person, people and children could focus more on their educations and careers allowing countries to develop at a quicker pace.

Casey Marx

Photo: Flickr