As we’ve discussed in class, actual technologies themselves have little impact on development. It is only when they are used to effectively deliver the aspirations of poor people that they may be able to positively influence their lives and livelihoods (Unwin, 76). That is what Arthur Zang, a young Cameroonian engineer, had in mind when he built the first fully touch screen medical tablet that could soon save hundreds of lives. The Cardiopad enables people with heart disease living in remote locations to perform heart exams, while the results are transmitted from the nurse’s tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them. In a part of the world where there is one cardiologist per 70,000 people, where many have great difficulty traveling to urban centers to seek medical care, and where the cost of medical exams is prohibitive for most of the population, the Cardiopad is bound to save thousands of lives.
Taking in factors of development, the Cardiopad has advantages and disadvantages. The factors that might inhibit the Cardiopad from being effective are infrastructure, user interface, and cost effectiveness. Access to high bandwidth and electricity is limited in remote villages, so a wireless solution might fall short. Cables and wires are also susceptible to deterioration and tampering, making the physical infrastructure an inhibiting factor. However, the engineer assures that “the Cardiopad is equipped with a battery that can independently power the machine for more than seven hours.” The other issue is user interface. Nurses and doctors in remote areas will have to be trained on how to use the heart exam software, and that will cost money. I’m not saying it cannot be done, but general acceptance and motivation could be an inhibiting factor. Then there is cost effectiveness. Because the Cardiopad is still in its pilot stage and not yet available on the market, its price isn’t fixed. Hospitals in remote areas are already underfunded and in poor condition. The tablets will have to be privately funded or petitioned for public funding – which isn’t guaranteed. But hopefully like other tablets for development we have learned about in class, they will be available under for $100 and subsidies can cover at least part of the cost.
Overall, I think the Cardiopad is a huge step forward in putting ICTs to use for development. At only 24 years old, Arthur Zang has engineered a device that crosses not only thousands of miles across the African continent, but also propels humanity years into the future towards saving the lives of more people in more regions across the globe.