Technologists and

However, a systematic framework                 by the IEEE New Initiatives Com-                also takes time for the di...
not easy. The UN Foundation made
contact with NGOs that typically
Table II
                Humanitarian Needs Identified by the Focus Group

                                      Need     ...
Good candidate challenges had              of Rural District Health Offices,               provide continuous power is cri...
central provider to acquire timely              to analyze data and track trends.               challenge champion. This i...
Author Information                                     Russ Lefevre is Co-chair of the                 markets in developi...
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Linking Technologists And Humanitarians


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Linking Technologists And Humanitarians

  1. 1. Linking g Technologists and g Humanitarians © DIGITAL VISION/PHOTODISC/GETTY IMAGES IEEE/UN Foundation Humanitarian Technology Challenge T here is unprecedented opportunity today for collaborative efforts to construct technol- ogy-based solutions to some of our great- KARL PERUSICH, HAROLD TEPPER, est humanitarian challenges worldwide. J. ROBERTO B. DE MARCA, RUSS LEFEVRE, AND RICHARD BASEIL Often these opportunities are especially apparent, and the needs are particularly urgent, in devel- oping nations. Many IEEE volunteers independently Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MTS.2009.934996 donate their time to participate in humanitarian activities. IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE | WINTER 2009 1932-4529/09/$26.00©2009IEEE | 25 Authorized licensed use limited to: IEEE Technical Activities Staff. Downloaded on May 04,2010 at 19:14:38 UTC from IEEE Xplore. Restrictions apply.
  2. 2. However, a systematic framework by the IEEE New Initiatives Com- also takes time for the different par- is lacking to bring together actors— mittee and the IEEE Foundation. ticipants to build a level of familiarity whether they are first responders, The idea was that the IEEE would and trust with working together—and technical experts, corporations, hu- bring breadth of technical expertise there is no guarantee once the work manitarian groups, or philanthropic to the challenge, and that the United is started, that such trust will devel- organizations—to address critical Nations Foundation would pro- op. The collaborative model, though, technological opportunities. vide access to non-governmental has a long history within the IEEE The Humanitarian Technology organizations (NGOs) such as UNI- internally—between societies, for Challenge (HTC), a joint project of CEF, the Center for Disease Control, example—as well as externally with the Institute of Electrical and Elec- and the World Health Organization other professional societies and or- tronics Engineers (IEEE) and the (WHO), i.e., to organizations that ganizations. Our judgment was that United Nations Foundation (UNF), could provide access to individu- the collaborative model would be was initiated in 2007 to provide a als with firsthand knowledge about one that IEEE volunteers already structured forum for marshalling particular problems faced in third would have experienced and that IEEE members’ extensive talent world locales. they would be comfortable work- for identifying implementable, de- The expectation from the start ing within. ployable, and sustainable solutions by all sides was that each partner Another key goal for the chal- to humanitarian challenges. in the collaboration would bring to lenge is that solutions would be The goals of this effort are two- the table its primary expertise—to generated for deployment in a de- fold: to provide concrete artifacts do what it does best. In the case of veloping world setting. From the that address pressing humanitar- the IEEE this would be to share outset it was clear that solutions to ian technological needs, and to expertise in the fields of electri- humanitarian problems had to be develop a repeatable methodology cal and electronics technology. widely installed in order for these for collaboration on a large scale Although there are many pressing to be effective. Part of what the that can be used in future HTC humanitarian problems, to be most humanitarian organizations par- projects. The current lack of such effective and to maximize the po- ticipating in this project bring to a collaborative framework has cre- tential for success, the HTC would the table is their field infrastruc- ated a moat between the humani- pursue challenges only in areas ture. These existing resources are tarians who daily see technological where there is a technical volunteer what allow the technical solutions problems, and the technical experts base within the IEEE. reached to be deployed and dis- who daily create new technical so- Humanitarian participants would seminated effectively. lutions and sometimes wonder why provide boundary conditions under A primary goal of HTC was to those solutions are not more widely which the solutions would be accept- maximize the project’s available deployed. Rather than operating by able. It is important to develop not resources by not having to develop happenstance, the Humanitarian just technical solutions but appropri- anew the personnel and contacts Technology Challenge is creating ate technical solutions that will be needed to get the solutions into com- a systematic approach to linking accepted and will work within the munities that can use them. As out- technologists with humanitarians cultural, social, legal, geographic, po- lined below, this point became an on a grand scale. litical, and infrastructure constraints important criterion for the identifica- that exist in a community where the tion of an acceptable challenge. Genesis solution is to be deployed. Once HTC was initiated, the The history of the HTC began in The intent is to develop a col- first step was to select specific September of 2005. One of us, Dr. laborative environment and tools challenges upon which the effort Russell Lefevre, began a series of so that IEEE volunteer members would focus. Desirable challenges discussions with Mr. Paul Margie, with appropriate technical exper- would incorporate detailed descrip- the Senior Director for Technology tise can work with and through tions of humanitarian needs, con- Partnerships in the United Nations field-experienced humanitarians sistent with United Nations Mil- Foundation to develop a partnership to develop solutions for prob- lennium Development Goals, and between the UNF and IEEE. Such lems that the humanitarians would be solvable using either new a partnership could address urgent have identified. technologies or new applications of humanitarian issues that can be Such collaboration has potential existing technologies [1]. Impor- solved using technology in the de- challenges. For example, it requires tantly, the challenges had to be de- veloping world. Funding for the ini- extensive interaction between tech- fined by the eventual end users. tiative was to be provided by the nologists and humanitarians who Describing the needs of villag- United Nations Foundation and the might not speak the same “language.” ers in developing countries, in ways Vodaphone Foundation, as well as With a collaborative approach, it that are technologically solvable, is 26 | IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE | WINTER 2009 Authorized licensed use limited to: IEEE Technical Activities Staff. Downloaded on May 04,2010 at 19:14:38 UTC from IEEE Xplore. Restrictions apply.
  3. 3. not easy. The UN Foundation made contact with NGOs that typically Each partner in the collaboration had implementation responsibil- will bring to the table its primary ity for solutions, in order to bring a local perspective. Those orga- expertise. nizations were screened to iden- tify principals who were adept at observing how the application of of the focus group participants, pions and organizations so that technology could conceivably meet who are generally active in health any solutions developed could specific challenges. care, information technology, and be implemented and deployed. It communications areas. The chal- was expected that these champi- Challenge Areas lenge areas listed were considered oning organizations would have Within the IEEE, the Humani- an initial set only, and needed to resources in the field where the tarian Technology Challenge has be screened and reduced to a more solutions were expected to be been organized with a steering manageable working subset. The deployed, obviating the need for committee to oversee its devel- participants knew that the initial additional infrastructure to be opment, and with corporate staff activities of the HTC group were to developed. That is, the IEEE or support. The goal was to produce create a process as much as solve a a sister organization would not an effective steering committee problem and the 37 possible chal- need to acquire the financial, large enough to be knowledgeable lenge areas were reduced to three. physical, human or other resourc- about the relevant expertise within Several criteria were used to es to put the solution created into the organization, but not so large filter the initial 37 challenges to the hands of the users that need it. that it becomes unwieldy. The identify the final three. First and Finally, since a second goal of the steering committee includes mem- foremost, the final challenges had project was to create a process for bers of the IEEE Technical Acti- to squarely fall within the exper- tackling other humanitarian tech- vities Board, as well as the chairs tise of the IEEE to ensure that nological challenges, the initial of the IEEE society partnership individuals possessing a strong ones chosen needed a significant group (SPG) and the member and knowledge base in each area could potential for success. This would geographic activities partnership be quickly identified within the validate the process used and set group (MGAPG). The SPG and organization; otherwise interest the foundation for addressing fu- MGAPG chairs in turn represent by all parties involved could slip ture humanitarian challenges. the two largest constituencies if a lengthy search were required From these broad criteria, more within the IEEE. These groups to find them. Second, the chal- specific conditions were devised are comprised of interested volun- lenges initially tackled needed to prioritize the lengthy list of ini- teers representing various societ- identifiable humanitarian cham- tial challenges to find the top five, ies in the case of SPG and various from which the final three were regions in the case of MGAPG. selected with concurrence from Thus, through its steering commit- both the IEEE and the UNF. The Table I tee, the project has access to most scope of the challenge (too broad Participant Organizations Focus groups within the Institute and can Groups Sessions that Defined or too narrow) was considered access others as necessary. the Initial Humanitarian Needs as well as number of people im- To identify possible problems pacted by the anticipated benefits. Aptivate that IEEE expertise could ad- Centers for Disease Control The breadth and complexity of dress, a series of focus groups with Datadyne, Inc. applicable technologies were also non-governmental organizations was Fritz Institute considered. Ideal solutions would Google Foundation arranged to generate ideas and data. utilize “off-the-shelf” technolo- InSTEDD The participating organizations are Institute for Triple Helix gies and techniques. Any require- shown in Table I. The focus groups Innovation ment to develop a major new identified 37 possible challenge International Medical Corps science or major new technology Manatt Health Solutions areas that matched well with the New Field Foundation for a challenge was considered a capabilities of the IEEE member- Pan American Health hindrance to a timely solution and, ship, shown in Table II. The chal- Organization thus, solutions of that type were SEVA Foundation given low marks. Challenges that lenge areas indicated are not a University of Calgary complete set of all humanitarian World Health Organization had a low probability of success in needs; rather Table II shows a set World Neighbors the required time frame for solu- representative of the backgrounds tion were also given low marks. IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE | WINTER 2009 | 27 Authorized licensed use limited to: IEEE Technical Activities Staff. Downloaded on May 04,2010 at 19:14:38 UTC from IEEE Xplore. Restrictions apply.
  4. 4. Table II Humanitarian Needs Identified by the Focus Group Need Purpose Reliable Electricity Power availability for electronic devices Data Connectivity of Rural District Exchange data between central health facilities and remote Health Offices field offices. Patient ID Tied to Health Records Maintain consistent patient records, including when patients visit different clinics, and when patients relocate. Local Management and Tracking of Ensure that supplies are getting to the people that need them in Supply Distribution order to maximize impact of assistance. Incident Tracking Determine locations and extent of medical problems to focus resources. Fast and Inexpensive Temporary Wireless Set up communications quickly after disaster. Infrastructure Two-way Communication in Post-Disaster Ability to define the extent of the event, the impact and the Situation assistance required. Remote Examinations and Disease Better, faster diagnosis of disease and commencement Diagnosis of treatment. Accurate/Timely Census/Population Data Improve accuracy of statistics. Identify and Collect Data on Population Identify likelihood of health crises, in order to take preventative Vulnerabilities measures. Patient Tracking Improve treatment administration, and identification of disease trends. Electronic Medical Records (Multi-use) Broad need – consider applications: • General census statistics. • Individual patient medical histories. • Disease tracking and statistics. • Treatment tracking, assessment. • Pharmaceutical distribution. • Medical supplies inventory control. Vaccination Records and Patient Tracking Ensure vaccines are completely and properly administered. Vaccination Records and Vaccine Tracking Ensure vaccines are completely and properly administered. Inventory Management of Perishable Reduce waste of expired pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals Verifiable “Cold-Chain” for Heat-intolerant Avoid unnecessary spoilage of medical supplies and specimens. Supplies Global View of Resource Demand and Ensure that supplies are getting to the people that need them in Supply order to maximize impact of assistance. Improved Night-Time Lighting Extend effective working hours for health workers. Equipment Power Usage Reduction Improve longevity of medical and communications devices. Portable Clinical Diagnostic Machines Improve diagnosis and treatment of patients who cannot travel to central facilities. Secure, Virus Free Operating Systems Keep PCs operational in remote setting. Easily Repairable PCs Keep PCs operational in remote settings. Early Warning System Notify people of impending situation so they can prepare for it. Affordable Interactive Video Demonstrate methods of doing things; ability to see actual Conferencing conditions in field. Interoperability of Tools and Systems Share information among NGOs, Governments, etc. and Software Instrumentation of Treatment Algorithms Assist health providers with diagnoses and treatments. Training for Sophisticated Equipment Ensure expensive, sophisticated equipment can be utilized at the Being Deployed field level on an ongoing basis. Technical Support for Sophisticated Ensure expensive, sophisticated equipment can be utilized at the Equipment field level on an ongoing basis. Education of Healthcare Workers Reduce errors made by untrained health workers. e-Learning for Health Care Workers Continuing education for those who field-administer health care. Provide Treatment Instructions Remotely Enable patients to self-treat when caregivers are not available at to Patients field level. Automated Tracking of Meteorological Data Disease prediction based on correlated environmental factors. Security and Safety of Rescue and Relief Reduce accidental contamination of workers. Workers Sterilization of Clinical Supplies Reduce risk of accidental contamination of patients. Clean Water Decrease prevalence of water-borne illnesses. Hospital Readiness Assessment and Tracking Maintain hospital operation after disasters. Language Translation Capability Ability to communicate in language native to people in field. 28 | IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE | WINTER 2009 Authorized licensed use limited to: IEEE Technical Activities Staff. Downloaded on May 04,2010 at 19:14:38 UTC from IEEE Xplore. Restrictions apply.
  5. 5. Good candidate challenges had of Rural District Health Offices, provide continuous power is criti- to have cost-effective solutions that and Patient ID Tied to Health Re- cal to the proper working of these could be locally implemented (in- cords. For moderate candidates devices. Since the devices are an stalled and maintained) at the loca- resulted as well: Remote Medical important scaffold for the services tion where it was to be deployed. A Examinations, Re mote Disease being provided, reliable power is solution also should be sustainable Diagnosis, Verifiable Cold Chain, critical to the humanitarian activi- in the socio-cultural environment and Local Management and Track- ties themselves. Reliability in this in which it would reside. Finally, ing of Supply Distribution. case incorporates not just distri- scalability was considered. Good These potential challenges were bution but generation. Proposed candidate challenges were ones taken back to the UN Foundation generation methods need to make that could be implemented at vari- partner. The UNF had no disagree- use of renewable local resources, ous levels to serve different sized ments with the selections, but rec- for example abundant sun or wind. constituencies; for example, a chal- ommended that they be “verified” A “one system fits all approach” lenge was scalable if a solution that by some prominent non-govern- would not work. Lighting a small worked for a small village could be mental organization active in the operating room at a rural doctor’s scaled up to service a hamlet and field in deploying technology for office would have different genera- scaled up again to work in a city. humanitarian purposes. The UN tion requirements than recharging An iterative closed-loop process Foundation arranged for an infor- a walkie-talkie of a field operative. was used to down-select the chal- mal review by the Earth Institute, The guiding principle for this lenges to the final three. Agreement affiliated with Columbia University challenge is to maximize the use was necessary on the final selection in New York City. In a roundtable of available resources in the field, by the IEEE as well as the United discussion with the Earth Institute, recognizing that different locations Nations Foundation. The 37 chal- Remote Medical Examinations and and different environments will lenges were first grouped into crite- Remote Disease Diagnosis were have access to different resources. rion areas. A voting process among concluded to be of less importance Development of affordable prod- the eight IEEE HTC Steering Com- than the others, and Verifiable Cold ucts is not enough. Administration mittee members and two UNF Chain was concluded to be a subset and maintenance of the solutions, project leaders was established as a of Local Management and Track- in the field environment, must also first step to filter the initial 37 chal- ing of Supply Distribution. be structured. In addition, some lenges. These ten voters separately This brought the seven potential solutions may require an economic indicated their priorities for the top challenges to five. The five poten- model consistent with initial fund- five needs in each of the criterion tial challenges were further reduced ing affordability and subsequent areas. The voters ranked which po- through a final round of discussions financial benefits. With money a tential challenge they felt had the within IEEE. On a conference call potential limiting factor more than broadest scope; then, which had of the IEEE HTC Steering Com- technology, early implementations greatest magnitude of anticipated mittee, each challenge was present- must provide sufficient economic benefits, and so on. After the first ed and discussed, with consensus incentives to drive more wide- round of votes, 14 of the 37 needs being that these three Challenges spread solution deployment [3]. were eliminated from consideration should be moved forward: Reliable because they received no votes at Electricity (earlier called Secure Data Connectivity of Rural all. This was not viewed as refut- Electricity), Data Connectivity of District Health Offices ing the need; it simply meant that Rural District Health Offices, and An important problem in many voters thought that none of those 14 Individual ID Tied to Health Re- underdeveloped areas is the in- well met any of the five criteria. An cords (formerly called Patient ID ability to maintain reliable and interactive conference call among Tied to Health Records). robust communication links be- all the voters was used to discuss tween rural health offices and the remaining 23 needs, with some Three Initial Challenges central health facilities [4]. With- voters asked to explain the reasons out such connectivity, the timely for their selections. With this shared Reliable Electricity delivery of resources, (doctors, knowledge in hand, a second round Approximately 1.6 billion people in medicines, etc.) to affected ar- of voting was conducted with only the world lack reliable, continuous eas and individuals reduces the the IEEE representatives, using the power, mostly in developing nations effectiveness of local medical same mechanism described above. [2]. But many humanitarian activi- treatment and ultimately increas- From this final vote three strong ties depend critically on electronic es mortality. In addition, the lack candidate challenges emerged Se- devices: communications, comput- of good two-way data communi- cure Electricity, Data Connectivity ers, and lighting, etc. The ability to cations decreases the ability of a IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE | WINTER 2009 | 29 Authorized licensed use limited to: IEEE Technical Activities Staff. Downloaded on May 04,2010 at 19:14:38 UTC from IEEE Xplore. Restrictions apply.
  6. 6. central provider to acquire timely to analyze data and track trends. challenge champion. This individu- data about regions, making re- Like data connectivity to rural al coordinates activities and acts as source planning impossible. The health offices, the IEEE could have a moderator for group discussions. challenge is to find reliable, low- a leadership role in developing in- It is the champion’s responsibility cost ways to provide connectiv- formation collection, storage, and to keep the group focused and ity, whether voice or data, that dissemination standards that would moving towards project milestones support bidirectional transmis- improve the integration of existing in a timely fashion. In addition sion between central health fa- capabilities. Such standards would to the challenge champion, each cilities and isolated rural health need to cross cultural, economic, working group has humanitarians offices (and between individual geographic, and political boundar- with experience in the challenge rural health offices). ies to be effective. Since medical area, technologists with appropri- A plethora of connectivity de- information can be used in nefari- ate expertise, representatives from vices and communications proto- ous ways if accessed by the wrong the IEEE steering committee, and cols are available today, but may people, any standards developed IEEE staff to provide support. Pe- be unsuitable for use at an isolated must safeguard the client. riodic conference calls provide rural health office in a region that additional interaction. Once the lacks a telecommunications infra- Interaction challenges have been defined in structure and probably has limited, The HTC project will rely on col- detail, solution groups, chaired by intermittent electricity. Although laboration of technologists, hu- a solutions champion and com- relying on established hardware is manitarians, and other individuals posed of the same (or new) volun- probably the only quick, feasible scattered geographically. With teers and humanitarians, will begin short-term solution, new proto- limited funds, conference or sym- the process of identifying and con- cols would need to be developed posia-like structures where partici- structing solutions to these prob- to maximize their effectiveness pants would meet at a single loca- lems. Proposed solutions must given the environment in which tion and time to develop solutions address technical constraints and they would be used. Establishing was deemed impractical, except in any social, political, geographic, common standards and protocols, limited instances in the ongoing so- or infrastructure constraints that possibly open source, is an impor- lutions process. It was decided that might exist in a location where tant part of this challenge. Since an online approach to collaboration the solution is to be deployed. In the IEEE is a recognized leader would best facilitate the necessary addition, the working group will in the development and establish- interactions. It is more or less cost- develop a business model for the ment of standards across the entire free to the users, can be accessed solution and a plan for training us- electrical engineering spectrum, it from anywhere geographically, ers and support personnel. has the international reputation to would be available 24 hours per play a leadership role in develop- day and could provide an archive Early Phases of HTC ing these standards that are sorely of ideas and data so individuals The Humanitarian Technol- needed to make system integra- could use it at their convenience. ogy Challenge has completed its tion seamless. To facilitate this interaction, an fi rst phase by identifying three online collaboration tool, Spigit, problems it will initially address Patient ID Tied was configured specifically for use and has started a solution process. to Health Records by participants in the Humanitar- At the completion of this process it Health records in many develop- ian Technology Challenge [7]. The is expected that technologies will ing nations lack consistency and tool allows data, ideas, documents be in place in “test” communities accuracy. Compounding the pro- and other information to be posted from which data and experience blem of general recordkeeping is and viewed by participants who can be drawn. This feedback will the tracking of specific individuals can discuss challenge topics and be used to evaluate the definition/ who move around within a locale. exchange ideas allowing global solution process currently in Developing consistency in infor- interaction 24 hours a day. This place and adjust it to make it more mation recorded across offices and online collaborative approach has responsive to the needs of the par- clinics as well as securely tying been successfully used on IEEE ticipating volunteers and the users a patient to a medical record are projects and other projects like Fu- of the solutions. Since each new important goals for improving the tureBoston [6]. loop through the definition/solu- quality of medical care delivered tion process will involve a differ- [5]. Sophisticated computational Organization ent set of problems and volunteers, techniques like biometrics and sig- Initially, each HTC challenge is or- the HTC process could be differ- nal/image processing can be used ganized as a working group with a ent each time. 30 | IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE | WINTER 2009 Authorized licensed use limited to: IEEE Technical Activities Staff. Downloaded on May 04,2010 at 19:14:38 UTC from IEEE Xplore. Restrictions apply.
  7. 7. Author Information Russ Lefevre is Co-chair of the markets in developing countries,” Annual Rev. Energy Environment, 2002. Karl Perusich, Chair of the IEEE IEEE HTC Steering Committee. [4] A. Chetley, Ed., “Improving health, con- HTC Society Partnership Group, is Richard Baseil, Consultant, is necting people,” The Role of ICT’s in the with Purdue University, 1700 Misha- with IEEE Technical Activities, Health Sector of Developing Countries. Wash- waka Ave., South Bend, IN 46614. Piscataway, NJ. 08854. ington, DC: InfoDev, 2006; en/publication.84.html. Email: [5] P. Druary, “Connected health: Trans- Harold Tepper, Project Manager References forming healthcare in emerging markets,” of the IEEE Humanitarian Tech- [1] United Nations, “End Poverty 2015,” Mil- Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group, nology Challenge, is with the IEEE lenium Development Goals, 2010; http:// 2007. 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