by Kelley Johnson
According to NGO Malaria No More, Malaria could be the first disease to be cured by a mobile phone. No, there isn’t an app that dispenses medicine (yet…), but mobile technology is making collecting data about the disease easier and faster, helping the organization faster mobilize resources to stop malaria.
In a pilot program in Tanzania called SMS for life, health care providers reported their stock of anti-malarial drugs to ensure that people didn’t seek treatment only to be told that the drugs they needed weren’t available. At the beginning of the mobile reporting, 26% of were out of the drugs at some point, but at the end of the reporting, the numbers were down to 1%.
A program in Nigeria worked with mobile phones to combat the problem of counterfeit anti-malarial drugs, letting patients confirm that the drugs they had purchased were genuine. These programs help to track medicines, which are an important step towards efficient management of resources.
In this example of Big Data for development, we see a collection of data that would normally be seen in a retail setting used for a higher purpose. The same technology is used by retailers to keep track of purchasing and stocking trends so that they can move around resources. We can see that technology that is originally developed for profit can have positive implications in the development world.
One of the common criticisms of Big Data for development is the lack of informed consent by study participants, but this example has no tracking of actual malaria patients, just medical supplies reported by healthcare providers.
Taylor L, Schroeder R. 2015: Is bigger better? The emergence of big data as tool for international development policy. GeoJournal 11 october 2014