Bebemama is a mobile app providing maternal health information to web-enabled phones. It was created as part of the World Bank’s Apps for Development competition, garnering an honorable mention. The purpose of the app is to deliver information on maternal health to women who may not have access to a health care provider but do have a mobile phone. The app displays World Bank data on fertility, maternal and child health for specific countries or groups of countries. It also includes health care advice for before, during and after pregnancy from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The beta version of the app was developed in Hindi, and now both English and Hindi are available languages. French and Spanish versions are under development. The application is free and open-source.
The Bebemama app is an innovative way to deliver important information to women who may not have knowledge they need about pregnancy. According to Bebemama.org, “Today, 57% of people in developing countries have a mobile phone subscription, more than the people with access to proper health care, either because no doctor is available or because they cannot afford the fees. ” Because of the relative availability of mobile phones, providing this information via cellular technology is great in theory. Unfortunately, in practice, there are a lot of issues with Bebemama. Even the most basic web-enabled phones are expensive, and the previously mentioned 57% are not typically using an iPhone or Android. Also, even if users can access the data, the information provided is not entirely what they need; fertility stats and information on fetal and maternal mortality isn’t the most constructive data to provide a mother who is simply looking for tips on how to stay healthy. The language barrier is a problem as well, though translating information into a workable language may not be a great help if the information is difficult to reach or if literacy is an issue.
Provided is a link to a press release announcing a new telemedicine program launched this week in the village of Shirgaon, Maharashtra, India. The program is intended to help eliminate the problem with Filariasis and Lymphedema in the village (Filariasis is a parasitic disease that causes Lymphedema, or swelling due to a blockage of lymph vessels). With this new service, patients can get a general consultation for Rs. 30-50, or approximately $1 American, and/or special medical kits for Rs. 2000, or approximately $41 American.
The program was launched on Friday, so results will not be available for a while, but the intent is obviously a positive one. An immediate concern I think of is that of even the limited cost in such an region–even if one can afford a consultation, someone telling you that you’re sick when you cannot afford to do anything about it isn’t especially helpful. A more subtle problem is complications related to the disease at hand; part of the beauty of telemedicine is that the doctors can come to the patient, especially useful when the patients have mobility issues. Extreme lymphedema from filariasis can result in elephantiasis, and even with milder cases, movement can be limited. Getting to the center for treatment may be troublesome.
Original Post by Christina Murphy
After reading a post from September 15, 2011o by Christina Murphy on reddit I immediately thought of how it related to what we discussed yesterday in class. On the surface, the idea of free laptops for every child in this region seems like a positive technological trend. But, as we all know, there’s a serious discrepancy between the imagined benefits and the actual results of such an initiative. There are arguments that this could potentially bankrupt the government with its high pricetag, and I can’t help but think that the money could be better spent trying to rectify other issues in the region, like frequent power outages, or expanding social or development programs.
This article discusses the potential role that African women could play in bridging the digital divide in Africa. Though the article does not cover the topic in-depth, it made me think of the ways in which women might play a role in bridging this divide in developing countries. Women are primarily responsible for childcare in most of the developing world, and therefore, they have the potential to introduce their children to the many uses of ICTs. If women received greater training in the use of technology, jobs that were previously available only to men might become more accessible to women. This would help women to gain a greater foothold in the formal sector in places like Latin America where great numbers of women work in the informal sector. Greater access to information might allow women to learn new methods of contraception and disease prevention, cures for minor illnesses and injuries, methods for lightening their household duties, or job openings they might otherwise not learn about.
These possibilities are exciting and inspiring, but the article did not discuss in detail how to go about granting women greater access to information and communication technology. Though the article mentions a few potential avenues for helping women in this capacity (workplace training and mentoring, etc.), I would be interested to hear more specific ideas about ways in which to increase women’s role in bridging the digital divide.