d.school class sees Stanford students develop ICT solutions to healthcare challenges in Kenya

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This Spring quarter, while our seminar series took a break, Terry Winograd and Joshua Cohen taught a new course at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (the d.school): Designing Liberation Technologies.

During this class, small interdisciplinary teams focus on a term-long design project, taking advantage of the design process structures and methods that have been developed in the d.school. This year's course developed as a collaboration between Stanford, the University of Nairobi and Nokia Africa Research Center.  The focus area was finding ICT solutions to the healthcare needs of people living in Kibera slum outside Nairobi.

Under the guidance of Jussi Impiö at Nokia and the Computer Science faculty, 27 students from the University of Nairobi Computer Science department conducted need finding studies at a number of health-related sites, including clinics, hospitals, community health workers, community leaders, and government offices. They read background materials, made observations, and talked with a wide variety of stakeholders. Their reports became the basis of the Stanford teams' initial understanding of users and needs. Communication with the group in Nairobi was also maintained throughout the course, using a Facebook group to facilitate discussions, as well as several teleconference sessions.

Working in small teams, 20 Stanford students from a wide range of disciplines worked over 10 weeks to develop initial design concepts to respond to some of the needs that had been identified. Click on the title of each project to view their final presentations:

  • mNote: an online archive for community health worker notes. This application empowers community health workers by preserving the flexibility and control they appreciate in their current paper notebooks, but adding digital knowledge management capabilities.
  • M-MAJI ("mobile water"): an electronic information system that allows people to use their mobile phones to identify clean water sources in their community. The application seeks to decrease the time and money spent searching for water, improve water quality, and foster vendor accountability by providing a mechanism for user feedback.
  • Babybank: a dedicated savings plan designed specifically for pregnant women in the slums of Nairobi. By leveraging a popular cell phone payment system, M-Pesa, the application aims to make savings easier, so that expecting mothers can afford the services that will keep themselves and their babies healthy.
  • Mazanick: an application to provide support and advice to pregnant women via SMS, with the aim of helping motivate them to attend prenatal appointments.
  • PillCheck (Kifaa cha Tenbe): a mobile application to help people in Kibera find information on the availability and pricing of malaria drugs quickly.
  • PatientMap :a system to make the waiting process in clinics more transparent, and to increase patient trust in the medical system.

This summer, two follow up trips are planned, with Nairobi students due to spend several weeks at Stanford, while a number of students from the Stanford group will visit Nairobi to explore possibilities for developing their projects further. Building on the success and lessons learnt so far, the Designing Liberation Technologies course will be open to a new set of students next academic year.