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Tuberculosis Health Biometrics India Development Marketplace Winner Health Operation Asha

What Does Innovation Look Like?

Aleem Walji's picture

Having traveled to both East Africa and India over the past several weeks, I’ve been reflecting on what ‘innovation’ means in different contexts. It’s easy to get caught in a technology-centric worldview in places like Bangalore and even Nairobi these days. But when I get past the superficial stories and dig a bit deeper, I realize that impactful innovation is less about shiny tools and technology and more about ‘listening to users’ and transforming social processes to solve problems that matter to people.

My walk through a Delhi slum comes immediately to mind. While there I visited Operation Asha, a 2011 India Development Marketplace winner that is working to arrest the spread of tuberculosis (TB). India is one of the only countries in the world where the rate of infection is growing despite the falling incidence of the disease globally. The previous day, I sat with colleagues from Microsoft Research in Bangalore who explained the simple but critical advances they had made in writing open-source software to verify the identity of patients visiting clinics, aggregating data on missed doses, and using text messages to increase compliance.

Biometrics for Tuberculosis Management

Dr. Shelly Batra's picture

(Blog originally posted in the Innovation Alchemy Blog)

The Team at OperationASHA apply Biometrics to manage Tuberculosis Medication in Slums and demonstrate a dramatic impact in reducing instances of multi drug resistant TB.

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune,” so said Shakespeare, believing, as I do, that one can bring about a change by acting as a catalyst. There are a lot of things that exist disparately, which, when combined at the right time by the right people, create a revolution.

I have worked as a medical specialist for several years. Over the years, I have witnessed every kind of human misery. I have worked under challenging conditions in understaffed, overcrowded public hospitals, where life was a constant war against infection and anemia. I have even performed emergency Caesarian sections by candlelight! The worst cases were those where because of an ailment, indignities would be heaped upon the patient, and social discrimination would raise its ugly head. These were truly those who suffer, for they would have no food, no shelter, no family, no treatment, only pain and suffering. Tuberculosis (TB) is one such disease where patients have to face horrifying discrimination and violation of human rights.