So hopefully you had a chance to read part 1 of my interview with ARM TechCon 2014 keynoter Erica Kochi, who is the co-founder of the Innovation Unit at UNICEF. In that blog, I explain how Erica is working with ARM technology, among others, to bring about change in developing nations through connection with young people around the world. In particular, Erica and her Innovation Unit are discussing with ARM how the two organizations can work together on such technology concepts as connectivity, low-power processing, low-cost mobility, and ease of use.
For part 2 of my conversation with Erica, we talked about her passion for technology and what she sees as the next “big things” for both technology that UNICEF will use and technologies that just personally intrigue her.
Immediate next steps for UNICEF include expanding their U-report two-way SMS-based communication system in developing nations, described in detail in part 1.
Erica says that in addition to expanding beyond the current seven nations where U-report is available, UNICEF will also start supporting the project on existing social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to accommodate the user of young people in various regions of the world.
Also, UNICEF has started expanding a technology project called mTRAC, which does disease tracking and drug-stock monitoring in countries like Uganda. Like U-report, mTRAC uses mobile phones and RapidSMS to track the stock of essential medicines like anti-malarial drugs by allowing the health facility to send reports by SMS with real-time data. The information enables local facilities in remote regions to lobby the government for restocking.
There are other projects like the MobiStation , which Kochi said was developed to address need for mobile and other low cost communications technology for really remote areas. The station includes a low-powered laptop, Android OS, a low-power projector and audio system, and is preloaded with such things as health information to train health workers or curriculum for schools. It can even be used in emergency settings.
Kochi says it’s technologies like these that inspire her to continue to try to improve on them through relationships like the one with ARM. “How do we develop low-cost appropriate hardware with available technology tools,” she asks. “We want to show the industry that there could be a market for it. As they think about their next users, the next market segment isn’t a highly connected 25-year-old in Palo Alto. Your next user has a much smaller income, who really values technology and connectivity, but will use it very differently.” She says the paradigms around connectivity in these areas and by these users are totally different from the ones traditional business users might expect. “Email is totally obsolete to them,” she says. “The phone was their connectivity first.”
When I asked her what existing or future technologies interest her as a pure technologist, regardless of their potential impact with UNICEF, Kochi said she is “hopefully passionate about all things global. I just feel like there’s such opportunity in personalized and portable devices that allow for a wide variety of connections to be made, whether it’s one-to-one or one-to-many.” She’s also very intrigued by wearable technology. While cautioning that we’re “not there yet at all,” she says most wearable technologies are centered around business and don’t really have an impact on our lives yet. She is personally a dedicated Misfit wristband user, a physical activity monitor. “The idea that we could start moving beyond just fitness and eventually fashion and move into monitoring and assistance of long-term, chronic illness” is very interesting to her. It would be much easier to perform remote diagnosis in areas where there aren’t a lot of doctors in order to prevent and catch things before people are in danger. “We need affordability and to build out the ecosystem to make it a meaningful solution. I’m really excited about the potential of it,” she says. And that is one great example of how ARM TechCon attendees, and ARM developers across the ecosystem, can make a direct contribution to technology for the greater good.