Wow, 'tis been a long time gentle reader. I've been busy with raising funds for my own ventures and competing in a slew of business plan competitions. Now that the circuit has reached it's climactic end, I'm ready to resume the beat on this blog.
Ok, the topic for the day is .. PDAs for Africa. I came across some old weblinks that showcased the work that Skyscape and Satellife were trying to do in Africa. The basic premise of the projects were to improve access to medical information and provide tools that would enable better tracking. The end-customer was the African physician.
Satellife's system is based on 3,000 to 5,000 Palm handhelds given to doctors and health-care workers in the field. The handhelds are used for routine health administration, ordering and tracking medical supplies, delivering new treatment guidelines and communication. In the field, the handhelds will connect to inexpensive, battery-powered Linux servers set up across the country.
Built by WideRay (now Quikker?), a San Francisco startup, the Jack servers have built-in GPRS radios, which afford them an always-on connection to Uganda's near-ubiquitous cell-phone network.
About the size of a thick hardback textbook, the Jack servers act as "caching" servers, storing content sent to them over the cell network from the administration's computers in Kampala. In turn, reports and e-mail received from the handhelds are relayed wirelessly back to the capital. The servers communicate with handhelds using an infrared link. The servers are powered by industrial-grade batteries and a single charge lasts up to a year.
For those of you who are research junkies like me, you can find a 2005 paper detailing the outcomes of Satellife's projects here and an older evaluation here.