HP is donating Palm Pre 2 mobile phones to health care workers in Botswana to help them detect cases of malaria.
Along with the nonprofit organization
PING (Positive Innovation for the Next Generation), Hewlett-Packard has
announced it will use its webOS mobile operating system to bolster surveillance
of malaria outbreaks in Botswana.
CHAI (the Clinton Health Access Initiative) and
mobile network provider MASCOM are also collaborating on the effort, announced
on June 6. MASCOM provides the airtime and data-transfer capabilities for the
project, HP reports.
In 2002, former President Bill Clinton
founded CHAI to enhance care and treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria and other
conditions. HP is also working with CHAI on testing of infants for HIV.
In Botswana, HP will provide 700 to
1,000 health care workers with Palm Pre 2 smartphones to collect data on
malaria cases and geotag the locations of outbreaks with GPS coordinates. The
Palm Pre 2 devices will also allow workers to collect pictures, audio and
The first-ever map of disease
transmission in Botswana will be created from this yearlong project, of which
the first phase has been completed.
In addition, mosquito nets will be
distributed in the country based on where the data indicates there is the most
Health care workers will share data on
the webOS devices using the cloud through an application PING has developed for
the platform. Researchers in the field will also use text messaging to spread
the word of outbreaks to the Ministry of Health.
"In addition to surveillance,
we're also looking at how can we use this combination of mobile technology and
back-end cloud as not just a prevention program but an education program,"
Paul Ellingstad, director of global health for HP's office of global social
innovation, told eWEEK.
With mobile phone use on the front end
and cloud computing on the back end, HP is able to transform how government and
public health officials operate, according to Ellingstad.
"That in turn is bringing not only
social benefit, but we're starting to look now, too, at how we can calculate
the economic benefit both to governments as well as to society for making this
sort of technology transformation," he said.
Using mobile technology rather than
paper-based research could speed detection of outbreaks from weeks down to
hours as well as improve quality control over a process in which records are
eventually entered into Excel after being transcribed six or seven times,
"If you're in Botswana, you might
not even know there's an outbreak occurring for a couple of weeks," he
said. "You just go on doing what you've been doing, using
Quicker notification via text messaging
will allow mobile users in Botswana to spread the word of outbreaks in real
By enabling the use of mobile
technology in areas such as Botswana, HP is helping to break through the
"last frontier in IT," according to Ellingstad. "Global health
has absolutely been the laggard," he said. "It's still very
paper-based in terms of process."
To make the mobile technology even more
accessible, HP is considering licensing use of webOS to other companies looking
to develop applications for the platform, Ellingstad said.
In 2009, more than 780,000 people died
from malaria across the world, according to the World
HP is also working with mPedigree, a
mobile phone operator that helps people in Nigeria and Ghana communicate about
In addition to collaborating with CHAI
on AIDS testing, HP also has a partnership with Mothers2mothers, a nongovernment organization
that helps prevent HIV transmission from mothers to infants.
With research to be done during the
remaining nine months of the malaria project in Botswana, HP plans to gauge how
similar technology can be used to track tuberculosis and conduct additional HIV
testing, Ellingstad said.
"What we've been doing is
demonstrating through pilots like the one with PING that you can use
technology," he explained. "It's not difficult-you make the lives of
health workers a lot easier."
Brian T. Horowitz is a freelance technology and health writer as well as a copy editor. Brian has worked on the tech beat since 1996 and covered health care IT and rugged mobile computing for eWEEK since 2010. He has contributed to more than 20 publications, including Computer Shopper, Fast Company, FOXNews.com, More, NYSE Magazine, Parents, ScientificAmerican.com, USA Weekend and Womansday.com, as well as other consumer and trade publications. Brian holds a B.A. from Hofstra University in New York.