Archive for the ‘Humanitarian Challenges and Opportunities’ Category

Dr. Camille Crittenden introduced the work by her organization CITRIS (http://citris-uc.org/) which is a collaboration between four UC campus in the SF Bay area: Berkeley, Davis, Merced and Santa Cruz, on humanitarian technology innovations and applications, in four core initiatives:

  • Data and Democracy
  • Health care
  • i4Energy
  • Intelligent Infrastructures


Under those initiatives, Tech applications have been developed to solve problems in  various areas, e.g.,

  1. Human Rights
    • Crisis mapping, remote sensing, video, forensic analysis, DNA, demographic data collection & analysis
  2. Governance & Democracy
  3. Economic development
    • Microfinance through crowd-sourced loans (http://www.Kiva.org)
    • SMS – popular tool to support agricultural decision-making
  4. Healthcare
    • mHealth: mobile applications for remote diagnostics  and care, use of SMS for medical advice
  5. Infrastructure
  6. Monitoring & evaluation
    • Surveys, remote data collection for feedbacks

Innovative Technologies for participatory assessment, e.g.:

Current challenges include:

  • Poor literacy rates
  • Regional conflicts
  • Climate changes
  • Health emergencies – Ebola, H1N1 etc.
  • Uneven access to the Internet and ICTs across the World

Growing number of communities involving in ICT:

  • Research funded by government and private investors
  • New programs by:
    • USAID
    • UCB Blum center
    • Development Impact Lab
    • Development engineering
  • GHTC and similar conferences

For more information on CITRIS and their projects, please contact the speaker at:


iPhone6 436


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  • Drivers for Humanitarian Technology
    • IEEE professionals capable of solving the problems
    • Should work on disasters everyday not once in a while
  • For example,
    • All small farm machines do not have feedback control system
    • Every machinery can be improved
      • without need for complicated technology
      • but that is not happening
      • Reason: interested problems vs relevant problems
    • One mobile device with an add-on can help to solve problems with some diseases
      • saving the cost of a few years
    • Re-frame problems for the most appropriate solutions
      • For example:
        • no value in finishing irrigation in 4 hours as compared to 40 hours
        • higher horsepower required to complete irrigation in a shorter time
        • spurious flow not worse than smooth flow
        • architecture innovation
  • Need institutional changes : business models
    • For example, In India, no venture capitalist will invest in student ideas
  • Serving the under-served
  • Affordability – cost is very important
  • Creating open source public standards of excellence
  • 3 pillars of sustainability:
    • Technology ~ Words
    • Institutions ~ Grammar
    • Culture ~ Thesaurus
  • Innovation requires
    • Share knowledge with outside – inside out
    • Learn from others – Outside in
      – need people to have large heart, big mind
  • Examples of Innovative ideas
    • Posture correcting chair / sensor invented by children
    • children invented modified walkers with adjustable legs
    • bus stop steps
    • phone to phone charging
    • heat from compressor of the refrigerator can be reused, so as to reduce energy consumption
    • Stoves with 3 levels, each with different amount of heat
    • Detection of Cancer cells based on their higher sodium content












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Saturday Opening Plenary – From Humanitarian Engagement to Sustainable Impact – Khanjan Mehta – Pennsylvania State University, School of Engineering Design, Technology & Professional Programs (SEDTAPP)

  • Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) Program
    • Venture team pipeline: from 50 students to 800 students
    • Senior level classes – students from everywhere
    • Projects passed from team to team as students moved on
    • Partner networks
      • Funding
      • Private sector easier to work with than the non-profits
    • Intellectual property
      • No patent filing
      • Publish everything
      • License to several companies
  • Frame changers






  • Re-framing research
    – research and publication
    – Show how, compiling – Inspiring & inform others
  • Diverse manuscript frameworks
    • New ways to disseminate knowledge
    • Great data & research out there
      • 114 million scholar articles with only 27 millions opened
      • circular innovation
  • Kochia chronicles
    • Documented challenges and how to solve them
    • Social business stories
    • Example:
      • Traditions in some communities: 10x annual income spent on a funeral
    • Resource driven entrepreneurship
  • Social ventures
    • Set up; get stuff done; take the plunge
    • Need to do it now
  • Boarder engagement
  • Execution: partnerships; research conversation
  • Ecosystems that fosters multi-million smile enterprises

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More than a year in the making – thanks to our dedicated volunteers Don McPhail, Jery Althaf and Aisha Yousuf – the GHTC Young Professionals Project Contest came to life! Our main idea was through this opportunity, to have young professionals from around the world had to work in a team on a solution for a real-life humanitarian problem. And the problem was “Rural District Health Office Data Connectivity and eHealth Record System”

A total of 5 teams entered the final stage and were invited to present their solution to judges at GHTC. While all teams understood very well the technical and financial challenges in establishing good data communications for healthcare professionals, the winning team pointed out “While technical obstacles exist to the successful implementation of this system, public outreach addressing social norms of patient responsibility is paramount to making this project sustainable.” and attempted to address both data connectivity between health centers and patient identification in their solution. The team brought up a key idea that a successful healthcare solution will always require participation of both healthcare practitioners and patients.

Below: Hassaan Idrees, representative of the winning team, received his certificate.

At the award ceremony, our guest of honour, Timothy Hsiao, from our sponsor US Agency for International Development (USAID), gave the keynote speech on “Open Source Development and New Opportunities for Humanitarian Technologies.” Timothy found the contest to be a very positive way to get young people involved in addressing real humanitarian issues. For GHTC, the support from USAID is simply a great gift. 

Below: Timothy Hsiao speaking about USAID

Most of us may know very little about what USAID truly does, so Timothy’s presence and presentation really opened our eyes. According to him, going foward, through an open source platform, USAID plans to focus on:
Delivering results on a meaningful scale through a strengthened USAID
Promoting sustainable development through high-impact partnerships
Identifying and scaling up innovative, breakthrough solutions to intractable development challenges

Particularly, the transformative power of science and technology will be used to deliver more effective, cost-efficient results in global development. Indeed money alone cannot solve humanitarian problems. Science and technology have the potential to help create feasible solutions and make the world a better place for everyone.

Overall, the Young Professionals Project Contest is a very successful pilot contest for GHTC 2013. Having Timothy to speak to us was a bonus. We hope this contest has inspired more young people to get involved in developing humanitarian technologies and get a better understanding of humanitarian work implementation.

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Paul J. Kostek, Chair 2012 GHTC
Panel Speakers:
Erna Grasz, Asante Africa Foundation
Joel Meyers, Partner and co-founder of Fuse IQ

Joel shared a video showing his team’s work in Basa, Nepal to bring a hydro-electric plant (electricity) and laptops (computing technology) to a village there. “We think of you as family” – This is how much humanitarian effort is being appreciated!

Keypoint to Joel’s project is all technologies brought in are based on Basa local people desires. However, the villagers are not given internet access yet. Afterall, “Internet uncontrolled can be devastating to a culture”

When asked about the sociological effects on villages now with advanced technology, Joel recalled a few incidents of jealousy and power structure concerns in different developing countries
– neighbouring village directly asks for money, $2500 for a teacher
– neighbouring village people came to camp and stole things due to jealousy
In the end, there is no clear answer. His team is trying to address these concerns. Maybe see if can replicate effort to neighbouring villages

Erna changed her career path from the corporate world to running her own non-profit company. When asked about how she put her exit strategy together, she enlightened the audience that she has a great husband, also an electrical engineer, who is willing to take on a stronger financial role at home. Still, it is not hard to imagine her exit strategy is “stocking every penny for 4 years and trying not to compromise lifestyle”.

Running a non-profit company differs in these ways:
– lack of staff to share the work
– no bureaucracy
– work that have tangible, meaningful results
– ideas often need to come out from local context rather than driven by the company
– inspirations from the people involved

As a non-profit CEO, Erna often manage volunteers and found non-profit work offer volunteers ways to
– learn new skills
– change fields
– expand network of contacts
– open doors to other opportunities

Working with developing countries, both Erna and Joel point out cultural differnces and concerns. Joel’s experience is to throw expectations out of the window as western mentality differs from developing countries’. Erna yet cited an example of used laptop donations from the western world. As local villages lack expertise to support different types and platforms, it is better for a company to donate a batch of used laptops of the same model so they can swap parts. Also, system design gets more complicated with flucuating voltages. The challenges are never simple indeed. Even within the volunteer network, Joel mentioned with distributed clients, volunteers, supporters, communication and ideas sometimes do get lost.

After attending this session, I feel like working in the non-profit world can be more challenging, satisfying and gratifying although sounds like more exhausting~ No wonder we need energetic HAPPY around!

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Too busy taking HAPPY around and didn’t get to sit through the entire session. Here are some of the highlights.

2:30 pm
An Interactive Sustainable Infrastructure Design Model for Health Clinics in Sub-Saharan Africa
Speaker: Bradley Striebig

Drawing from the experience of creating a sustainable health centre in Benin for the Songhai Centre (http://www.songhai.org/english/), Bradley discussed different aspects involved in sustainable infrastructure planning and building in Sub-Saharan African.

Songhai Centre has a zero waste process but implementing a sustainable project in Benin has additional considerations.

The team used various methods to collect necessary information
– interview health care providers in Benin
– compare to the Tabitha Clinic in Kibera, Kenya
– interview experts in global health care & education
– research standards

There were specific concerns such as the need to handle more than 30 people per day on short-term basis during malaria seasons. There are workers and trades people on site and worker safety is crucial. In Sub-Saharan Africa, patients often arrive with malnutrition, in addition to illness, therefore a holistic healthcare approach needs to be implemented. The lack of reliable power requires the health center to have its own electric generators on back-up.

In a sustainable design approach, 3 categories of concerns need to be addressed:

Eco-Centric Concerns
– carbon footprint
– water& wastewater use
– end of life disposal
– material usage

Socio-Centric Concerns
– employ local labour
– education
– community needs
– health care
– reduce fear of clinic visits

Techno-Centric Concerns
– capital cost
– operation & management fcost
– labour
– power (electric)

Sustainable Design = technologies meeting 3 concern categories
– earth block construction
– social & educational space
– rainwater harvesting
– private doctors quarters
– advanced communications
– biogas digestion
– PV solar cells
– Daylighting

For example, when considering concrete block walls vs. earth block construction, it’s not purely an engineering problem. Eco-centric trade-offs cover transportation costs, CO2 emission and block costs only 10-15% of total building cost. Yet socio-centric trade-offs put local labour, local income, pride in facility.

2:50 pm
Humanitarian Engineering
Speaker: Gary Conkol

Whether it’s new development of humanitarian effort or re-development
caused by war, economic collapse, environmental impact, outdated technology or business practices, humanitarian engineering takes a key path.
1. identify needed technology
2. identify technology likely to emerge or improve

Then put together the results and deploy worldwide development through advanced technologies & humanitarian projects

Particularly when looking for breaking technologies
1. concept / R&D
2. pilots 7 demostrations
3. emerging = < 20% of businesses
4. common = > 50% of businesses (even WalMart may be selling the technological product)

There is only a short range betwen emerging and common to make the deployment successful. In summary, “We must continue to drive development to the needs”

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This post is about the later half of this track!

For the first presentation, please view it here:

2. Exploring employment opportunities through microtasks via cybercafé

By Mrunal Gawade

+ There are so many tasks to do on computers, and many people who don’t have work but are literate. The problem is that they don’t have computers. Why not providing them cybercafés, to tackle this problem?

+ microtasking

+ some enterprises have done this approach … but they are setting up their own infrastructure. What this group is suggesting to use cybercafé which already exists.

In research …

+ typing most focused because it’s the most basic skill. There will be some data to be typed, so people will be doing these works.

+ the studies were done on the demographics of users. Comparison between India and Kenya.

Research questions addressed:

+ Are workers interested in working in cybercafé? >> Yes, but cybercafé should be close to houses.

+ Are cybercafé owners willing to participate in this initiative? >> Some of them really are, some are not.

+ Are the workers skilled enough to earn an acceptable pay rate? >> Yes, but people were distracted to do some personal stuff in cybercafé.

+ what keyboard should be used? >> people who have never used netbook are more comfortable with typing on cellphones like nokia phone. But computers should be used for more intense work.

3. Human Factors in Safe Driving

By Sajan Pillai

+ Distraction while driving was analyzed.

+ The severity of the driving accidents got worse in India.

+ The video of driving in India was shown. (It looks quite impressive.)

+ Development of driving simulation and training of drivers in India is also work in progress

4. Software for Tracking Vulnerable Children

Tata Consultancy Services

+ Corporate Social Responsibility in TCS

+ 24 hour helpline where children can reach out to get help

The details of the program “Childline” :

+ 24 hour helpline with one hour mandate to reach a child physically in direct intervention cases

+ Tie up with local NGOs operating in child space

+ 15 – 18 months of designing, developing and testing of the system

+ Still in the progress of running the system fully.

5. Sahaaya: Gesture Recognising System to Provide Effective Communication for Specially-abled People

By Piyush Madan

+ Sahaaya helps the communication of those who feel moving arms etc. difficult to move, or have difficulties in talking.

+ It takes the live stream from the webcam and analyzes it

+ Open source, cross platform, low-cost of hardware, can go on mobile

More improvements to be made

+ User interface needs to be improved in the near future

+ Audio message callout

+ Currently, users can use it only in front of the screen

+ Flexibility to add and modify gesture

Open Source code available: https://github.com/madanpiyush/Sahaaya

It was a long track! Sorry for no picture on this post.

Now, let’s go to have some break and keep blogging for another session … see you later.:)

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