Change is a group at the University of Washington exploring how technology
can improve the lives of underserved populations in low-income regions.

Grégoire Lurton: Improving the usability and usage of routine Health Systems data in Developing Countries.

October 24th, 2014 by Trevor Perrier

What: Grégoire Lurton: Improving the usability and usage of routine Health Systems data in Developing Countries.

When: Tuesday, Oct 28 at 12pm

Where: The Allen Center, CSE 203

Please join us at Change this week –  Grégoire Lurton from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) will be presenting current research on Health Management Information Systems.

Emphasizing the importance of Health Management Information Systems (HMIS) as well as their overall weak performance in providing reliable data is becoming a stencil of the discussions on health systems in developing countries. Many efforts have been made to improve data collection in these settings. This talk presents ongoing reflections on ways to improve HMIS data usage, focusing on data management and data analysis innovations.

Based on current research at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and at CSE’s Data Science Incubator, we present two examples of HMIS data leveraging. A first example will present how metadata from Excel spreadsheets have been used to compile and standardize batches of reports from Kenyan HMIS. A second example shows how data from Open Street Map can be matched with HMIS data from Nigeria to estimate geo-localization of health services.

Finally, we will offer preliminary reflections on how the increasing availability of structured HMIS data changes the way information and decision making should be linked. Using Alain Desrosières’ typology of the use of statistics for policy making, we will propose the possibility of a Learning State as being most adapted to the data available through HMIS.

About the speaker:
Grégoire Lurton is a second year PhD Student in Global Health at UW, and Research Associate at IHME. His research explores how data from in African countries’ HMIS can be used to inform policy making. Grégoire graduated from the French National School of Statistics and Economic Administration and from Sciences-Po Paris. He spent 5 years in West Africa, working with NGO Solthis, building Health Information Systems for national HIV programs in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Niger and Mali.

Nicki Dell: Field Evaluation of a Camera-Based Mobile Health System in Low-Resource Settings

October 19th, 2014 by Trevor Perrier

What: Nicki Dell: Field Evaluation of a Camera-Based Mobile Health System in Low-Resource Settings

When: Tuesday, Oct 21 at 12pm

Where: The Allen Center, CSE 203

Please join us this week at Change as Nicki Dell presents findings from a field evaluation in Zimbabwe where her Android based diagnostic tool into was interoperated into the health services work flow.


The worldwide adoption of mobile devices presents an opportunity to build mobile systems to support health workers in low-resource settings. This paper presents an in-depth field evaluation of a mobile system that uses a smartphone’s built-in camera and computer vision to capture and analyze diagnostic tests for infectious diseases. We describe how health workers integrate the system into their daily clinical workflow and detail important differences in system usage between small clinics and large hospitals that could inform the design of future mobile health systems. We also describe a variety of strategies that health workers developed to overcome poor network connectivity and transmit data to a central database. Finally, we show strong agreement between our system’s computed diagnoses and trained health workers’ visual diagnoses, which suggests that our system could aid disease diagnosis in a variety of scenarios. Our findings will help to guide ministries of health and other stakeholders working to deploy mobile health systems in similar environments.

About the speakers:
Nicki Dell is a final year PhD Candidate in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle. Her research interests lie in human-computer interaction and mobile computing with a focus on designing and evaluating systems that improve the lives of underserved populations in low-income regions. Her PhD thesis focuses on the technical, user interaction and deployment challenges of integrating mobile, camera-based systems into resource-constrained environments. Nicki obtained a BS in Computer Science from the University of East Anglia (UK) in 2004 and an MS in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Washington in 2011. Nicki has won several awards and fellowships including a Graduate Facebook Fellowship and a Google Anita Borg Scholarship. She has completed internships at Microsoft Research in Redmond, USA and in Bangalore, India and has helped to organize the Change group at the University of Washington since 2011.

Aditya Vashistha: Educational Content Creation and Sharing by Low-Income Visually Impaired People in India

October 13th, 2014 by Trevor Perrier

What: Aditya Vashistha: Educational Content Creation and Sharing by Low-Income Visually Impaired People in India

When: Tuesday, Oct 14 at 12pm

Where: The Allen Center, CSE 203

Please join us this for a talk by Aditya Vashistha based on formative work he conducted this summer in India working with MSRI and TEM.


Low-income visually impaired people face a wide variety of educational challenges which are magnified in the developing world. Digital assistive technologies (such as screen readers) are typically out of reach, so individuals depend on Braille and audio recordings to access educational content. Unfortunately, there are acute shortages of Braille and high quality audio books for many subjects, leaving students scrambling for ways to continue their education. We present a formative study that examines the educational landscape for low-income visually impaired communities in rural
and peri-urban India, the challenges they face in accessing educational content, and the solutions they have invented. We conducted interviews with 16 stakeholders, including students, teachers, and content producers, to understand the education ecosystem in their communities and how they use technologies such as basic mobile phones to consume, create, and share educational content. In particular, we found that these communities have established an informal network of peer-produced audio content that is shared via Bluetooth, memory cards and CDs. Our analysis suggests ways in which technology can improve access to professionally authored materials and augment these informal networks of peer-production.

About the speakers:
Aditya Vashistha is pursuing Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Washington where he design, build and evaluate technologies for marginalized rural and urban communities to improve their access to information, healthcare and education. Much of his research lies at the intersection of Social Computing and Information and Communication Technologies for Development. His current focus is to build and evaluate scalable voice based communication platforms that enable the next billion people to access the Internet, social media platforms, and crowdsourcing platforms on their non-Internet-enabled mobile phones.

Melissa Densmore and Alex Densmore: Employer-Issued Mobile Devices and Pay-As-You-Go Solar Energy

October 5th, 2014 by Trevor Perrier

What: Melissa Densmore and Alex Densmore: Employer-Issued Mobile Devices and Pay-As-You-Go Solar Energy

When: Tuesday, Oct 7 at 12pm

Where: The Allen Center, CSE 203

Please join us this week for two mini talks by Melissa and Alex Densmore about their work in ICTD.  Melissa will be talking about her recent work exploring how frontline workers use employer provided mobile devices for personal use.  Alex will be sharing his experiences trying to provide affordable solar energy with Simpa Energy.


Part 1: Mobile devices are increasingly powerful and flexible tools for computing and communication. When ICTD workers are given a mobile phone “for work”, what else do they do? And to what extent can or should an employer shape that use? This talk will examine rules that development projects impose to govern use of mobile devices. This work maps these rules against actual instrumental (work-related, non-prescribed) and non-instrumental (personal) device use, and enforcement of these rules, in eight projects using a popular mobile-based job aid, CommCare. We present early insights from qualitative analysis of two such deployments in India identifying a range of often conflicting policy choices that affect device use for project mission and/or professional and personal empowerment. We explore tradeoffs for morale, work quality, mission, and device integrity. We identify user remote availability, soft intimidation, and validation as mechanisms to shift authority and credibility of information sources. The implications of our findings are increasingly important as governments and NGOs arm frontline workers with mobile devices as tools to improve service delivery.

Part 2: Simpa Energy is a market leader in providing affordable solar energy in rural areas. This talk will include a brief overview of Simpa’s business model, its technology, and some of the unique challenges of working in rural India.
About the speakers:

Melissa Densmore is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at University of Cape Town. Prior to joining UCT, she completed a postdoc at Microsoft Research in Bangalore, India as part of the Technology for Emerging Markets group, where she has been conducting a trial comparing the effectiveness of community health workers using interactive mobile health education materials to health workers using paper flipbooks. Other work includes a delay-tolerant tele-consultation system for doctors in Ghana and contributions to infrastructure enabling village health centers to consult with doctors at the Aravind Eye Hospitals.  Her research interests include human computer interaction for development (HCI4D), mobile health, and last-mile networking. Recipient of the 2008 Yamashita Foundations for Change Prize, she has been doing ethnographic fieldwork, systems design, and deployments in Ghana, India, Mexico, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda since 2004. Melissa completed her PhD at University of California, Berkeley in Information Management and Systems, a 3 year ethnographic study of the use of Internet and mobile technologies by health practitioners and NGO staff in a health financing program in Uganda, has an MSc in Data Communications, Networks and Distributed Systems from University College London, and holds a BA in Computer Science from Cornell University.

Alex Densmore is an energy-access professional and formerly the Lead Hardware Engineer at Simpa Energy, where he designed the electronic controls for Simpa’s pay-as-you-go electric metering system. His past work includes a wide range of engineering projects in developing contexts, including an internet-enabled solar charge controller, gravity flow water systems, and various solar power installations. Previously, he worked as a building energy modeler for The Integral Group, evaluating designs for low-energy HVAC systems. He received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

Neha Kumar: Of Projectors, Mobiles, and Maternal Health

September 29th, 2014 by Trevor Perrier

What: Neha Kumar: Of Projectors, Mobiles, and Maternal Health

When: Tuesday, September 30 at 12pm

Where: The Allen Center, CSE 203

Please join us for the first Change Seminar of the autumn quarter.  Neha Kumar will be presenting work she did over the summer in Uttar Pradesh India working with the Projecting Health project.


 Projecting Health is a maternal and neonatal health initiative that was implemented in rural Uttar Pradesh (UP, India) almost two years ago through a collaboration between PATH, UW, and local partner organizations situated in UP. In Projecting Health, frontline workers organize group screenings of locally crafted films using low-cost pico projectors in order to teach pregnant women and new mothers about various health-related issues. This talk will discuss the emerging mobile media practices of the Projecting Health target audience, with a view to examine whether mobile phones can play a role in the dissemination of these videos and if yes, how.
About the speaker:

Neha is a postdoctoral researcher at UW CSE, where her research focuses on the design, production, and dissemination of visual media to address maternal and infant mortality in rural India. She recently completed her Ph.D. from the School of Information at UC Berkeley, where she conducted an ethnography of the adoption and self-guided uses of new media technologies of Indian youth from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. Her research objective is to contribute a deeper, more grounded understanding of emerging uses and users to the field of ICTD and its interventions.