Using technology to cure social ills

national January 20, 2014 00:00


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ABHISHEK GUPTA, who is in his final year of undergraduate study at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpurhas, highlighted the problem of Indian farmers committing suicide in his presentation at the inaugural Telenor Youth Summit, which recently brought together 25 student delegates with the potential to be future leaders. 
“Almost 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide in the last decade due to debt and poverty,” he cited. 
Gupta has proposed the development of a mobile application as a platform for updating and exchanging information, including consumer-market price updates, weather forecasts, information on certain products that farmers want to sell, and locations of retailers. The application could also be used as a tool to connect farmers with local government agencies, as well as potential buyers. 
In addition, it could help reduce the role of middlemen and allow farmers to conduct business directly with their customers, enabling them to have a better income, which in the long term could lead to a reduction of the number of suicide cases among farmers.
Gwen Yi, a nineteen-year-old student from INTI College Subang Jaya in Malaysia, has proposed an idea to develop a platform that would allow teachers around the world to exchange innovative teaching methods, techniques, and best practices – a tool she says would assist in solving the problems with teaching methods used by Malaysian teachers. 
“Right now Malaysian schools are trying to come up with a ‘21st-century syllabus’ – one that reflects more critical thinking and analysis – but teaching methods are still stuck in the previous century. Teachers simply do not have the motivation to devise and implement innovative teaching techniques in the long run,” she said. 
Called “EDVENUE” the platform she has devised will enable teachers to upload their teaching methods and let other teachers rate and review them. The platform is intended to create a community of teachers who are then inspired by each other’s ideas.
The summit, at which societal leaders like Gupta and Gwen shared their views on how technology can change society, strives to use the collective wisdom of these young societal leaders, aged 18 t0 25, to address social and economic challenges using mobile technology – including mobile phones and the Internet – bringing change and creating opportunities for all.
The summit’s 25 delegates, who presented their projects in the Norwegian capital of Oslo, focused on technology as a way to solve social, economic, and environmental problems in their respective countries. They deployed technology to address challenges involving health, education, social security, agriculture, women’s empow
 erment and democracy. 
It was two women from Bangladesh who came up with the idea to turn these devices into “life-saving solutions” during moments of crisis. “We hope that interaction within the group will eventually lead to a mass-movement. For example, if somebody in my area is in danger, it is my responsibility to look into the matter. If I evade the issue and something bad happens to that person, then I am liable and the repercussions would inevitably go public,” said Safa and Sami, students from the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka.
Gwen said she would take what she learned from the summit to improve her project.
“What I have learnt from the summit is that by building an online community between platforms, I can apply my own ideas to build a platform for teachers,” said Gwen – the youngest of all the delegates. She plans to start developing her project this year. 
Another delegate, Robin Liendeborg from Sweden, has created a website and mobile application called “Comic Health”– an interactive app that explains treatment procedures and informs patients in their own language – before, during and after treatment.
“My mum, who is mentally ill, inspired me to create this application as she has to take many kinds of medication. At one time, she took the wrong medication and could not speak properly for almost a year,” said Robin, who is the CEO of Comic Health. 
Another idea inspired Robin when he visited a refugee camp in Sweden and saw how the refugees and asylum seekers lived. He then began designing a concept that would provide them with information in their own language. 
Comic Health is currently available in 35 languages on an iOS platform. However, Robin anticipates it will be available on other platforms in the near future. 
“In three years, I hope to bring Comic Health to a national standard by making the product stable, secure and accurate,” said Robin.
In the future, he plans to develop the app from a user’s perspective by improving how patients can pinpoint their needs to care staff. This would make the app more useful in the healthcare industry as many patients in ICU have difficulty speaking and need tools that help them explain their daily needs, he said.
Though summit participants were from diverse backgrounds and with different problems waiting to be solved back home, their common goal is a keen interest in improving society through the development of technological expertise. 
More details on the Telenor Youth Summit can be found at:

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