Innovating to include gets up close and personal

With all the gloom and doom we see in the news, we owe ourselves an occasional reminder that there are compassionate people and organizations doing great work to improve lives every day all around the world. We’ve highlighted a few examples below. – Liz Enbysk


Stabilizing tools in times of crisis
Emmanuel Jean is a program manager with Télécoms Sans Frontières (Telecoms Without Borders) – or TSF. TSF is teaching teachers in the Turkish town of Gaziantep and over the border in the Azez province of Syria how to use educational apps in their classrooms.

“What we are doing is using technology in a humanitarian manner,” he said in an interview with Jonathan Moore, the employee communications manager for AT&T’s Europe, Middle East and Africa region. AT&T and its foundation are long-standing corporate supporters of TSF. “These children have had an unstable education for six years, and we are giving them the tools to stabilize their learning," Jean said.

“When you are a child," he added, "you have to discover who you are, what you like, where your talents lie. Education is fundamental to that. Our technology gives them access to the world, but also access to themselves.”

Using data to combat SIDS
The Bloomberg headline tells the story: A Bereaved Father and His Team of Microsoft Data Scientists Combat Infant Deaths. Years back, John Kahan's baby son Aaron died, a victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Six in 1,000 children in the U.S. die in their first year of life, according to Kahan, and one of the six dies of unexplained causes.

On the 13th anniversary of Aaron's death, Kahan climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness and money for SIDS.

As the Bloomberg article explains, when he returned to his office at Microsoft after the climb, his team had a surprise for him – "they'd been crunching numbers on infant deaths in the U.S. and using data-analysis algorithms to try and find new ways to reduce the number of babies lost to SIDS each year." His team has donated about 500 hours of their own time to the project, and through its philanthropic arm, Microsoft has contributed free cloud hosting and software to help them.

Now they have developed some promising leads and are working with a Seattle Children's Hospital research team and the hospital's testing labs to continue their work.

"If you meet a parent, even if they are 80 years old, it never goes out of their mind the trauma that's created, and here we're talking about millions [of babies]. How can we ignore this?" asks neuroscientist Nino Ramirez, who directs Seattle Children's Center for Integrative Brain Research. 

A young maker on a mission
An asthma attack often meant a trip to the emergency room for teenager Hannah Edge, where a diagnostic machine would test her lung function. She wondered if she could make a portable device she could use at home to test her lung function – a device that could also help millions of other asthma sufferers avoid those trips to the emergency room.

According to an Intel blog post, 13-year-old Hannah spent months researching how to measure lung capacity and how to scale down the technology involved into a portable device. The prototype she eventually developed using computer-aided design and 3D printing helps people with respiratory illness and athletes test lung capacity and detect changes in lung function. It even sends data from the portable device directly to a physician.

And at age15, Hannah runs SpiroEdge, her medical device startup with co-founder and CTO Rami Abousleiman, an electrical and computer software engineer.

“I think the most rewarding part of being an innovator is receiving positive feedback about my work and being able to improve people’s lives, and potentially make a positive impact in medicine or public health,” Hannah said.

The Intel blog suggests Hannah "embodies the creative and problem-solving spirit of the maker movement." Together with Maker Media, Intel is reaching out to other students through a new Maker Share online community to encourage more young people like Hannah to pursue projects with a social impact.

The skills students learn through maker projects will help them become successful innovators in the fourth industrial revolution, suggests Rajiv Mongia, director of Intel’s maker outreach programs.

“In the first three industrial revolutions, people were often challenged to get their hands on the technologies necessary to innovate. As a result, innovation was limited to those that had access to the financial or knowledge resources for them to pursue their dreams,” said Mongia.

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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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