how information moves to create empowerment
Late last year I met with some folks in Boston who are working on some neat emerging technologies for diagnostics in the developing world. Since then, we’ve all been trying to brainstorm ways to engage others who are interested in this topic into the conversation. Recently, Aaron posed a really interesting series of questions to me in thinking about the world after their diagnostic technology becomes widespread:
“How does the data move; what is done with the data when it gets there? How does it influence caregivers, governments, funding sources, etc? Can we predict what we might learn?”
(photo courtesy of… )
I have an endless curiosity for questions like these (as Thomas Friedman calls it, this is my “inner fire truck”). Although my design skills are still in their infancy, and I hopefully have a long road in global health and technology ahead of me, these are the best kinds of questions to ask to move further down that path. Essentially, development is about empowerment, and empowerment comes from information. When you design for the developing world, and with the developing world, the primary concern is access to information. What information do these people need to make appropriate decisions (and how does that differ from the information that we provide for traditional devices in domestic hospital settings)? How can we deliver that information in a usable and readily accessible format? What will happen to that information once we obtain it? What other things can we couple it with to make the most of it?
Of course, you have to optimize your physical design for the environment that it will be used in, but these are questions of design intent, and they’re far more interesting than questions of form or function.