Archive for November, 2012

Mobile health apps; the simpler, the better

Posted in Mobile Apps, Mobiles and Health on November 19, 2012 by Envirocell

I think at this stage; that m-health or Tele-medicine works better when being a simple, mostly SMS based applications. Consider a tool that reminds you of your medicine, or vaccination or of a doctor’s appointment. These are effective, cheap, work on any phone tools that were accepted in developed countries and less developed ones.

M-health apps are good for spreading awareness

Another area where m-health leave its mark is when used in awareness or mass notifications l. Bulk SMS is a great in spreading information fast; and with the power of data warehousing, the messages can be tailored as you want, they can be based on geographic or demographic criteria, high income customers or the masses, they can address men or women, old or young.

During the avian flu crisis in 2009, the government was afraid the situation will go out of hand, they came to mobile operators for help, and we did. In a few hours, we identified customers living in the hardest hit areas and sent them official messages with clear instructions. Almost 5 Million messages were sent in 3 days thus reducing the risk and possibly fending-off the pandemic. We estimate that our messages reached 15 Million subscribers after being forwarded by original recipients.

More advanced, web based apps

Despite high rates of smart-phone penetration, especially in Europe and the US, I see that complex, fully fledged Tele-medicine applications do not fly easily; sometimes they don’t fly at all. I can speak about my experience here in Egypt where we worked on the ‘Tele-Derma’ project.

Dermatology is an ideal candidate for its highly visual nature, so we wanted to offer people living in remote areas, quality medical care by capitalizing on cellular technologies like phone cameras and broadband connections that literally ‘take you there’. It seemed that the notion was perfect, and that one day; this will be the default mode of treatment.

Several major entities collaborated to make this project a success, and it was, but only from a technical point. Pictures were taken, data logged in, information sent to experts and a full diagnosis with a prescription was sent back.. All via broad band mobile technology; so it worked like a charm. Moreover, expert doctors were better able to organize their schedules making them more efficient.

During the pilot phases, over 200 patients were treated. There a few bugs at the beginning, but were all solved by the end of the test, almost every patient data had the doctors’ full concurrence reaching a 90% success rate.

On the human level however nor doctors or patients wanted to lose this ‘personal’ touch they enjoyed for years… some patients actually preferred to go to junior doctors in their local area rather than using this application with a far more experienced practitioner on the other end.

It seems that for humans, interacting with the person who’ll cure you is a top priority, no matter rich or poor, urban or rural, one must absolutely ‘see’ his doctor.  I’d tend to think that we will remain this way for a while till technology leaves no choice or we lose our human touch.. I’ll take the first possibility.

Need more information?

If you like detailed analysis about the Tele-Derma project, history, figures, dates, sample pictures and all, please email me: and I’ll send it over.


Internet safety … the blurry line between ‘big brother is watching’ and ‘proper control’

Posted in Child Protection, Tech Talk on November 18, 2012 by Envirocell

I liked Orange Group’s description of our children being born under a digital star and that soon they’ll be masters of the web. A problem however persists, which is children navigating uncharted, and dangerous areas in the cyber world.

The main challenge for parents and guardians is children don’t trust us as their filter. The generation gap makes our advice outdated, unrealistic or at best not ‘hip’. Children always listen to peers rather than us when it comes to mobile and Internet.

A recent international research by GSM Association shows 60% of youth aged 17 and 18 turning to friends for advice. Only 20% ask their parents, and none asked their teachers!

I have 2 teens in my home, 2 laptops, 1 desktop and recently had to bow to status symbol pressures and buy a tablet. I knew I’d be in trouble if I don’t come up with online controls, and fast.

First thing I realized is that ‘control’ and ‘friendly’ or ‘practical’ do not go well together, in fact, they are opposites; there’s no such thing as friendly control.

Second; no matter how sophisticated filtering software I buy, there’s always a way around it. There are sites that show how to crack software, cheat games, bypass filters, fake IP addresses and everything else that’s plain wrong, albeit exciting.

The great ‘control’ solution I wanted was apparently not a technical, but a human, get to know you better, let’s be transparent solution.  A technical solution was necessary but far from complete.

I started by putting basic, intuitive rules and watched them develop as we went along. Rules were interactive, meaning that I too, had guidelines and targets.. See this:

Tablets, laptops and smart-phones don’t go to bed: Bedrooms are for sleeping, maybe reading a book [the old fashion one made of paper]. Moreover, you don’t want cellular devices to be so close to you all night, they emit low dose radiation and we’re not sure how safe or unsafe they are. [Send me any questions on this topic]

Bridge the digital gap: I always thought of digital gap as difference between rich and poor, therefore ‘bridging the gap’ was basically to raise level of ICT knowledge by providing training and equipment. That’s not all.. ‘Digital gap’ is also difference between old and young often living in the same home but with different online activities and habits.

So, here I was; an addict of the NewYork Times, National Geographic and model train web logs, who had to open an account at Tumbler and had to follow Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus [Yuck]; chased my boy to know the games he admired so much and why. I agree,, they were infatuating. Now I can’t think of a day without 20 minutes of Angry Birds [already becoming unfashionable]

Limits on location and duration of use: Use devices in a common area. This way, you can see what your children are doing. Being in the open by itself deters users from going into ‘no-no’ land.

I see that 2 hours on weekdays and 3-4 hours on weekends is fair. When I say ‘use’, I refer to all portable devices, including wireless game consoles.

Be a pal: Unawareness of our children digital habits is today’s version of neglect. Assuming they’ll do the right thing by themselves is asking too much and plain naïve. The Internet is a great place to learn and benefit but like any technology there is a dark and dangerous side.

Be a friend to your children, share experience and stories, explain online dangers like anonymous friendship requests, chain messages, spamming and mails calling for help.

Your children may still think of you as a dinosaur, but one that’s fun to be with.