The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on global economic, social and healthcare systems. Developing countries have seen an even more destructive impact. As wealthier countries relied on better-funded healthcare systems and vast resources to overcome the pandemic, the developing world was largely left to fend for itself. However, entrepreneurial technological innovations to fight COVID-19 have given hope to those less fortunate to persist through the pandemic.
JAMVENT: An Open-Source Ventilator
Ventilators serve as a last resort for those suffering from extreme cases of COVID-19. However, many countries, developing and developed alike, find themselves with a shortage of these expensive and complex machines. India, Brazil, the U.S. and Spain have all experienced scarcity throughout the pandemic.
Luckily, a team from Imperial College London has developed JAMVENT, a low-cost and open-source ventilator. This ventilator does not require specialty parts, a significant barrier to ventilator production. While ventilators currently cost $35,000, the production cost of JAMVENT is only $2,000. Furthermore, JAMVENT’s open-sourced blueprints could allow countries to manufacture reliable ventilators for a fraction of the current cost. JAMVENT is still in the regulatory process in the United Kingdom, but the blueprint is already available for countries to use.
Intelehealth: Providing Digital Health Care
Many communities globally suffer from isolation: a lack of roads or rail transportation can hinder the flow of goods and people to and from a town. Isolation from medical services can prove particularly detrimental, especially when faced with a contagious pandemic. Access to medical professionals, even virtually, increases survival rates. As a result, many innovations to fight COVID-19 focus on connecting those who are isolated to medical professionals.
Intelehealth, an open-source digital platform for connecting patients and doctors, has partnered with the NGO Aaroogya Foundation to create a platform to enhance access to healthcare in isolated Indian communities. So far, it has provided pandemic prevention education to 43,551 people across 22 regions in India, with another 10,088 teleconsultations and 8,396 frontline workers given training.
A Smart Hand Sanitizing Device
Temperature checks have become quite common in the United States, with many restaurants, supermarkets and shops requiring these checks. However, some territories around the world have trouble accessing these technologies due to trade restrictions or isolation. These barriers make developing innovations to fight COVID-19 difficult. However, in the Gaza Strip, entrepreneur Heba al-Hindi designed a smart hand sanitizing machine that automatically takes the user’s temperature and opens the door.
Along with preventing the spread of COVID-19 in businesses, this device has overcome some of the difficulties isolated communities face. The parts for the machine come from scrapyards across the Gaza Strip. Heba al-Hindi aims to bring awareness to this “Made in Gaza” brand to support local industry, providing an economic stimulus to a region in need.
A Clear Mask for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People
While mask-wearing has undoubtedly saved many lives, for some, it presents a problem. Deaf people who partly rely on mouth movements to interpret speech have encountered many difficulties in communication since the pandemic began. However, Faizah Badaruddin, a 51-year-old deaf tailor in Indonesia, developed a clear mask to address this communication barrier while wearing a mask.
“Since the pandemic started, everyone is wearing face masks. For deaf people, we can’t understand what others are saying because we can’t read their lips,” states Badaruddin in an interview with the Straits Times. Each day, Badaruddin and her husband make more than a dozen masks. These masks cost around $1 and allow families to accommodate their deaf friends and loved ones. For a developing country like Indonesia, keeping prices low and helping the deaf community both come as a priority, and, Badaruddin has seemingly struck a balance.
Many of the new COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA technology, a groundbreaking technology that could revolutionize vaccine production for many diseases. With these vaccines, the world is now equipped with the necessary innovations to fight COVID-19. While these technological innovations have helped contain the spread of COVID-19 and empower individuals, only a vaccine distributed to all countries will end the pandemic. However, distribution has remained unequal, with upper-income countries buying 54% of doses while only making up 19% of the population.
Luckily, the COVAX program by the World Bank and bilateral donations have helped many developing countries kick-start vaccination campaigns, with significant successes in countries such as Bhutan, El Salvador and Mongolia. The developed world should support these campaigns with more vaccine donations and greater freedom in accessing vaccine patents. Moving forward, collaboration and cooperation will accelerate the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic on a global scale.
– Justin Morgan