By ensuring the proper medicines are available at remote clinics, like this one in Tanzania,
health workers can treat and cure 96% of malaria cases.
in the areas of education and healthcare.
The Computerworld Honors program, now in its 24th
year, recognizes organizations that create and use I T to
promote and advance public welfare. Award winners
will gather at an event in Washington on June 4 to
celebrate their achievements.
cities that ship supplies. The application is known as SMS for Life.
“The idea was to take that information centrally and look at inventory levels overall so we could do a
better job of forecasting stock-outs,”
Initial results of a pilot test at 20
sites across Tanzania were daunting:
More than 25% of remote facilities were totally out of stock on all
“The good news is that once
we had that data, we could reduce
stock-outs to less than 1% in a very
short time,” James says. “That led to a
rollout across Tanzania, then through
Kenya, and we’re now in the planning
stages for Cameroon and the Republic of the Congo,” he adds. Over the
past decade, Novartis has provided
more than 500 million malaria treatments for adults and children.
Developed by an IT team at
Necessity Drives Innovation
Novartis, the SMS system comprises
an SMS management tool and a
“This is one of those unique programs and one of our
favorite programs in IT,” James says, adding that every-
one who worked on the project did so as a volunteer.
Usability and affordability are the heart and soul of these
innovations, many of which are being deployed in poverty-stricken and remote areas of developing nations where
life’s basic necessities — much less state-of-the-art I T and ubiquitous Internet
access — are not readily available.
But what is available is SMS, which
in remote areas performs more efficiently than costlier, more complex
options, according to Rob James, CIO
at Novartis. Working with IBM and
Vodaphone, Novartis I T came up with
a simple idea: Have each remote clinic
text four numbers, representing the
inventory levels of four different medicines, to distribution facilities in major
Low-Cost Literacy Tools
Keeping user costs low was also a major driver in the
development of an application known as Mobile and Im-
mersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies, or
MILLEE for short. Designed as a series of English literacy
games that are played on cellphones, the application
aims to improve English as a second
language among poor children living
in rural villages and urban slums in
the developing world.
Matthew Kam started the project
in 2004, when he was a graduate
student at the University of California, Berkeley. When Kam moved to
Carnegie Mellon University to become
an assistant professor in human-computer interaction, he expanded the
project with the idea of having students
rewrite the software from scratch so
Inventory levels for lifesaving medicines are sent
by text message directly
to distribution facilities.