IDEAS 2016: A round up of technology innovations
HELPING PARENTS WITH THE POWER OF A TEXT
Expanding on their work to improve childcare standards and access, Quality Care for Children launched the Georgia Parent Power texting program to give parents timely insight into their child’s development. Once parents text their child’s birthday to the system, they’ll receive two free text messages each month with helpful information specific to their child’s age, up to five years old.
“We realize that staying informed is important to parents, but can often be overwhelming and time consuming,” said CEO Pam Tatum. “Georgia Parent Power was created to supply parents with a regular, reliable source of concise information specific to their child.”
Covering a wide range of topics including developmental milestones, childcare quality indicators, and literacy tips, each text also links to a blog post with additional detail and resources. Since launching in late 2015, the program has already delivered more than 120,000 text messages to Georgia parents.
80 HOURS OF PLANNING, ONE QUICK SCRIPT
As co-director of two yearly international academic conferences, Society of Biblical Literature Director of Programs Charles Haws is responsible for scheduling some 500 sessions at each, accounting for the needs of 2,000 unique participants. For years, said Haws, it took a week to construct an initial schedule, followed by another week of resolving the inevitable scheduling conflicts by hand.
Researching solutions, Haws found an academic paper, “Scheduling Parallel Conference Sessions,” by a statistics professor at Trinity College Dublin, Dr. Brett Houlding. “I had no idea what some of the author’s terms meant, but I didn’t have anything to lose by contacting him,” said Haws. “He wrote back quickly to tell me how their school is set up to accept project proposals.”
Soon, Haws was partnering with one of Houlding’s fourth-year students, largely over Skype and email. “He worked for nine months documenting requirements, then coding instructions and algorithms,” said Haws. The result is a one-hour process for a complete, conflict-free schedule: “I get four data files together, run a computer script, and then upload the file it creates to our database. Meeting scheduled!”
Besides saving nearly two weeks of labor, said Haws, the computer program accounts for all the factors he can’t—like tracking 250 topic areas, ensuring attendees won’t have to choose between two sessions they find equally important: “By giving members the chance to attend sessions most relevant to them, the scheduling script puts us in a much better position to achieve our mission.”
DELIVERING SUPPORT FOR SUPERHERO PATIENTS
Last September, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta partnered with ride-sharing program Uber for Cape Day ATL, an annual city-wide celebration where thousands of people don capes to show support for the “superhero” patients at Children’s. Asking everyone in Atlanta to wear a cape for the day and share it online using the hashtag #CapeDayATL, Children’s sold capes ahead of time on their website, and also delivered them free of charge on Cape Day through Uber for those who still needed one. Not only did Uber deliver more than 200 capes in under three hours, they also made a $20 donation to Children’s for each cape delivered.
AN APP FOR DISEASE ELIMINATION
Long a pioneer in its field, the Decatur-based Task Force for Global Health developed a smartphone-based data collection application called LINKS that informs efforts to control and eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) currently affecting more than a billion people. Using the LINKS system, The Task Force and its partners recently completed the largest disease mapping project ever undertaken, giving them the means to eliminate a 30,000-year-old NTD called blinding trachoma that threatens people in 51 countries.
“In order to implement a comprehensive strategy to eliminate trachoma, we need to know exactly which communities are affected by the disease,” said Data Analyst Beck Willis. Previously, infection data was gathered village-to-village using paper surveys—not just cumbersome, but slow enough that finalized data was often no longer accurate. Powered by LINKS, said Willis, the Global Trachoma Mapping Project took just three years to complete, “the fastest any disease has ever been mapped globally.”
The mobile technology platform has given The Task Force and its partners in Pfizer, the World Health Organization, and dozens of other implementing agencies the means to end blinding trachoma by 2020. The Task Force is also using mobile technology for in-the-field diagnostics, analyzing blood samples for another NTD called lymphatic filariasis. “As mobile technologies develop,” said Willis, “they can be further harnessed to improve the health of populations living in developing countries.”