Preventing Heart Disease in Africa One Tablet at a Time

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.

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5 responses to “Preventing Heart Disease in Africa One Tablet at a Time

  • jessalynkunz

    Wow! I love seeing that tablets are being adapted for development uses outside of mere educational endeavors. Your post became even more exciting after learning that the creators of the Cardiopad is only 24 years old. As you said, hopefully the tablet will be available price and we can begin to see the implementation of this technology on a wide scale soon.

  • brookekania

    I completely agree with the comment above, this sounds amazing. I think that the cost is not the main obstacle to this tablet being used in poor rural areas, as each one is only $100 and each hospital would only need a few at the most. The OLPC initiative was able to run in several impoverished countries where every single child needed a $100 laptop, so I think getting money for these tablets shouldn’t be too hard. What I think is a much larger obstacle is getting reliable internet in these areas which is essential to the program working.

  • asomers6

    I agree with the above comments that this is definitely a huge step towards advancing healthcare in remote areas, but without doctors who are available to step in if there were ever a malfunction or emergency and without a stable energy source and internet connection, the surgeries could go terribly wrong.

  • sophiwaterr

    I agree with brookekania, the greatest challenge seems to be internet. While funding is insubstantial, a great innovation such as this tablet might be considered, especially if it’s cheap. It’s hard to diagnose the situation, I feel like we spend so much time reiterating the same problems and benefits over and over again, that it might have to be calculated on a case-by-case basis. Some villages might be able to effectively use a tablet, others might not find it useful.
    I do think though, that when it comes to technology, it’s best application can be in the medical field. I see it as much more helpful to a hospital or clinic than to a farmer or on a more individual basis, where it might go to waste.

  • mpavlin

    An invention like this could really effect thousands of people and save thousands of lives. Although it might not be extremely effective at first, because of price and it will probably have some kinks that still need to be worked out, its nice to see technology being used in the medical field. Hopefully this product really does create change and other products like this follow shortly.

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