The National Geographic published an article that inspired me to share my thoughts about it. Though much of my focus in finding solutions to the healthcare needs of people in developing nations is on creating a system where communities will not need to depend on traditional healthcare, the current reality is that those traditional organizations are still the only access people will have to the healthcare they need. The problem is that those organizations are not mobile. What is inspiring about the system in Malawi that Mr. Holeman describes is that the government has created a system of mobile healthcare workers that are able to treat some of the leading causes of death among children. What is also commendable is the way that the NGOs that are there have been able to provide support to these healthcare workers by effectively disrupting the mobile phone industry. By identifying the flow of information as being the most important factor in keeping the healthcare workers properly supplied, and understanding that the most impactful thing they can do is find ways to use the existing technologies to make information flow more efficiently. What I love about this is that they aren’t using the newest technologies, they don’t have an unlimited amount of resources, and they are approaching their chosen problem from a point of view not unlike that of any entrepreneur. They are finding ways to keep solutions simple, use existing available technologies, and make these innovations scalable. This success comes from having a clear understanding of how to impact the problem they face and being driven by an honest desire to promote change. I think they really show everyone out there that wants to do good that innovation isn’t just about creating something new. Where innovation really comes from is new ideas, being able to find a solution that hasn’t been done before, and being able to execute that effectively. In some cases, it may lead to the creation of new technology such as the Digital Doctor, and in other cases, it may be as simple as rethinking the way we can use existing technology like 1st generations mobile phones. As we’ve seen with the success in Malawi, sometimes older is better.
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