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Posts in category 'Asia'

22 July 2010

Questions for Microsoft Research’s Indrani Medhi

Medhi
Indrani Medhi, associate researcher in the Technology For Emerging Markets Group at Microsoft Research India, was recently rated one of the “50 smartest people in technology” in 2010 by Fortune Magazine.

In an interview with Arlene Chang of the India Real Time blog of the Wall Street Journal, Medhi talks about her passion for socio-economic development through technology, how it can improve the quality of life in rural India even for illiterate people, and “why she loves her job”.

“Through an ethnographic design process that comprised interviewing 400 research subjects from low-income, low-literate communities across India, the Philippines and South Africa and more than 450 hours spent in the field observing subjects in the natural contexts in which they live and work, I discovered that there were a number of usability challenges which people experienced while interacting with traditional text-based UIs, on both mobile phones and PCs.

Based on the broad lessons learned through this ethnography, design recommendations were developed for non-textual user interfaces for low-literate users that use combinations of voice, video and graphics. These principles have been applied to designing four applications – job-search for the informal labor market, health-information dissemination, a mobile money-transfer system and an electronic map.”

Read interview

8 June 2010

Rapid prototyping at UNICEF

UNICEF
On 10-11 May, UNICEF New York organised the Design Days, where they invited designers and engineers who have worked with UNICEF to discuss the organisation, the (rapid prototyping) design process, and recommendations for future design collaborations.

They have now produced a video that is a synopsis of the projects, themes and trouble-shooting expressed at the event.

“We have edited down a conversation between UNICEF sponsored rapid design prototypers to profile what they have created in order to respond to and alleviate actual needs of families and children. This video is intended to help make transparent the iterative process that development must undergo in order to create a new device that can respond to global concerns. Also touched on are ways for the organization to make the process of creating prototypes more streamlined, and to take what is developed and make it open source in order to create a sustainable and beneficial outcome to those that need it.”

Watch video

11 April 2010

Durability – is it losing power as a customer driver?

Dina Mehta
In a three-part article series, Dina Mehta, founder and managing director of Mosoci India, argues that durability is losing its power as a consumer driver in some product categories in India.

Somehow this is sad news.

“For the most part, my feeling is that while [durability] may still hold importance for some categories, it’s seen as a given – a hygiene-factor almost, that users expect from their products. Research I’ve done in the last few years indicates that neither a brand differentiator nor a purchase driver, as it was even just 7-8 years ago.”

Read article: part 1 | part 2 | part 3

Also check out a series of presentations that Metha found on principles, processes, personas, ideation, creativity, scenarios and story in Design Thinking for new product development.

8 March 2010

Ethnography informs text-free UI for illiterate people

Indrani Medhi
Indrani Medhi, an Associate Researcher at Microsoft Research India where she works in the Technology for Emerging Markets team, designed a text free user interface for illiterate populations.

“A student of design, Medhi has developed text-free user interfaces (UIs) to allow any illiterate or semi-literate person on first contact with a computer, to immediately know how to proceed with minimal or no assistance.

As Medhi points out, in text-based conventional information architecture found in mobile phones and PCs, there are a number of usability challenges that semi literate people face. By using a combination of voice, video and graphics in an innovative way, Medhi has overcome this challenge.

Medhi discovered the kind of barriers that illiterate populations face in using technology through an ethnographic design process involving more than 400 women from low-income, low-literate communities across India, the Philippines, and South Africa.”

Read full story

23 January 2010

Ethnographic research could make Google more relevant in China

Tricia Wang
Ethnographer Tricia Wang wrote an excellent and long comment on why Google is having troubles in China:

While unfortunate that Google.CN may be shutting down, my ethnographic work in China revealed five things that aren’t being told in the current story:

  1. Many Chinese internet users don’t find Google to be very useful. Therefore, a Google withdrawal would not have any immediate impact on the daily Chinese internet user because most people search with Baidu, the reigning search engine in China.
  2. Many Chinese internet users prefer Baidu over Google because using Baidu makes them feel more “Chinese.” Baidu does an excellent job at tapping into nationalistic fervor to promote itself as being the most superior search engine for Chinese users.
  3. Chinese internet users don’t know how to get to the Google site. While they may “know” of Google, it’s a whole other matter when it comes to typing or saying Google’s name.
  4. Google is primarily used by highly educated netizens. And even these users prefer Google.COM over Google.CN.
  5. Google is not successful at reaching the mobile internet market.

[...]

It’s one thing if Google’s difficulties could just simply be attributed to government interference, and bad marketing and publicity. But that’s not the case. Their services just simply are not useful for most Chinese users. I suggest that Google dedicate itself to understanding the Chinese market in a socio-anthropological way. They should be hiring teams of Chinese and non-Chinese ethnographers, sociologists, and anthropologists to work intimately in all phases with human-computer interaction designers, programmers, and R&D managers. Google should invest in long-term fieldwork for teams to immerse themselves in a diversity of environments. While usability tests and focus groups are useful for specific phases of app development, they aren’t as useful for understanding cultural frameworks and practices because by the time an app is being tested, it already has accumulated so many cultural assumptions along the way in the design process that users are asked to test something that functions in the programmer’s world, not the user’s world.

Read full story

(via danah boyd)

21 January 2010

FT on cultural differences in Chinese internet use

Chinese mouse
Western companies are struggling to bridge the growing gap created by the evolution of a cyberspace with Chinese characteristics. Kathrin Hille explains some of the cultural (and political) differences in today’s Financial Times.

“[Chinese people] tend to roam the web like a huge playground, whereas Europeans and Americans are more likely to use it as a gigantic library. Recent research by the McKinsey consultancy suggests Chinese users spend most of their time online on entertainment while their European peers are much more focused on work. [...]

Foreign companies have taken a long time to figure out – then adapt to – one of the key features of Chinese consumers: they do not like to type. “Typing is a pain in Chinese,” explains Zhang Honglin, demonstrating how he has to enter a search word in Latin transcription, then pick the right character scrolling through sometimes dozens of different choices in a pop-up window. This is because Mandarin has many thousands of characters. So when 35-year-old Mr Zhang sneaks away from his family’s tobacco and liquor shop in Beijing to an upstairs internet café for hours on end, he navigates almost entirely using the mouse.

Most portals have reacted by filling their pages with hundreds of colourful links competing for attention – creating a cluttered and disorderly view to the western eye but making life easier for Chinese users.

Beyond aesthetics, Chinese web users are much more lively than their western peers – a characteristic that forms consumption preferences.”

The articles also contains a thoughtful reflection on the cultural importance of user-generated content in China.

Read full story

19 January 2010

“Turn right after the petrol pump” – User research improves navigation on Google Maps India

Landmarks
Interesting Google Blog article on how user research dramatically improved driving directions on Google Maps India.

The research was based on the fact that street names are not commonly known in India and the typical wayfinding strategy is to ask someone on the street. Now Google Maps India describes routes in terms of easy-to-follow landmarks and businesses that are visible along the way.

“We knew from previous studies in several countries that most people rely on landmarks — visual cues along the way — for successful navigation. But we needed to understand how people use those visual cues, and what makes a good landmark, in order to make our instructions more human and improve route descriptions. To get answers to these questions, we ran a user research study that focused specifically on how people give and get directions. We called businesses and asked how to get to their store; we recruited people to keep track of directions they gave or received and later interviewed them about their experiences; we asked people to draw us diagrams of routes to places unfamiliar to us; we even followed people around as they tried to find their way.

We found that using landmarks in directions helps for two simple reasons: they are easier to see than street signs and they are easier to remember than street names. [...]

We also discovered that there are three situations in which people resort to landmarks.

The first is when people need to orient themselves — for instance, they just exited a subway station and are not sure which way to go. Google Maps would say: “Head southeast for 0.2 miles.” A person would say: “Start walking away from the McDonald’s.”

The second situation is when people use a landmark to describe a turn: “Turn right after the Starbucks.”

The third use, however, is the most interesting. We discovered that often people simply want to confirm that they are still on the right track and haven’t missed their turn.”

Read full story

11 January 2010

The bridge between cultures and design

Between cultures and design
Microsoft’s Joe Fletcher contributed an intriguing article on software UX in India and China on the ever more interesting Johnny Holland site:

“Over roughly the last 10 years, China and India have given way to a huge rise in technology outsourcing. Jobs are outsourced from companies like Microsoft, Google, T-Mobile, Honeywell, and many others. In Microsoft I’ve worked with teams in both India and China developing software for a variety of uses. Having our headquarters in the US, I usually work with small satellite teams in these countries. I couldn’t help but wonder why these countries who had become huge in the area of software technology, struggled so much in the area of user experience and UI innovation. [...]

Given the issues and connections I was seeing, I decided to go straight to the source and start to ask the offices I had worked with, as well as other designers I found through my various networks about these issues. These are just the initial thoughts I’ve started to gather. I plan to interview many more people with what I’ve deemed my curiosity research project, but thought it would be interesting to share a few of the insights I’ve gathered thus far to give a view to others who work with these countries. Given the format of Johnny Holland, I’ve kept these short, but often there are great (and sometimes very amusing) stories behind each point.”

Read full story

11 January 2010

The service design era

Gilbarco
In a two-part series, Korea’s JoongAng Daily newspaper looks at the rise of service design and the notion that modern product designers need to look well beyond the physical form of their projects.

For years, the design field focused primarily on developing products that were attractive and convenient for consumers. Now, however, the industry is increasingly eyeing service design, which involves providing products that offer up benefits to society.

“The current trend is to create designs that improve services in the public domain as well as at corporations,” said Lee Young-sun, a chief design officer at the Korea Institute of Design Promotion. As Baik Jong-won, a professor at the Kaywon School of Art and Design, puts it: “Design that had been merely about making a contribution to beautifying a city environment is now turning into a means of resolving social issues these days.”

Read full story:
- Designing with the public good in mind
- Satisfying customers drives design advances

(via Core77)

9 December 2009

Mumbai markings enhance service design

Dabbawalla
Meena Kadri reports on how lunch and laundry delivery in Mumbai – known as the Dabbawalla and Dhobi Ghat services – use sophisticated coding systems to track items within their service chain, in order to ensure accurate delivery.

“The Dabbawalla service entails collection of freshly prepared meals from the residences of suburban office workers from vast reaches of the city, delivery to their workplaces and the return of empty lunch boxes (dabba or tiffin) to its original home – all for a reasonable monthly fee. Delivering over 200,000 lunch boxes each day to workers who have diverse eating habits (often governed by religion) requires an accurate system – especially as each lunch box commonly passes through the hands of at least six men, in quick exchange, on its path from home to office and back again. Most tiffins are collected by bicycle, sorted into destination groups, then carried together on trains and cycled to the offices of their respective customers. In between they are commonly carried on hand pushed carts and large head-balanced trays – all while jostling with chaotic Mumbai rail and road traffic.

With low literacy being an issue for some of the 5000 dabbawallas, they have devised a coding system using colour, symbols, numbers and a few letters which is painted on the lids of the tiffins to indicate the train lines, hub points and destinations at both ends of the delivery cycle. Each part of the marking can be understood by the relevant dabbawalla as the lunch box exchanges hands through the service chain. In the case that a lunch box gets on the wrong path, the code allows it to be set back on the right track – yielding only one mistake per 6 million deliveries according to economic analysis.”

Read full story

27 November 2009

Nokia on life among the clouds

Nokia clouds
Nafid Imran Ahmed of the Bangladeshi newspaper The Daily Star was just at “The Way We Live Next 3.0″ event in Helsinki and reports on the company’s vision of the future:

“Nokia, the world leader in mobility, gave me an opportunity to look into its crystal ball how mobile devices and services will evolve in the coming years. The annual event, The Way We Live Next 3.0, pulled in journalists from around the globe.

Based on Nokia’s research and development, life in 2015 will be a little different from what it is today. The processing power of mobile devices will increase dramatically and always on super-fast internet access will enable creating and sharing much quicker and easier.

Smart ecosystems will be the centre of our mobile life. Nokia’s head of corporate strategy Heikki Norta outlined this on the second day of the event while wooing the audience with a short video where he showed that how devices and services will work together to make our life easier.

A global network of services will constantly learn from consumers, with a new generation of intelligent devices millions of users will be connected to the Nokia Data Cloud. Data from these devices will be harnessed to give an unprecedented level of knowledge sharing, from highly localised traffic reports to global weather trends.”

Read full story

19 November 2009

Various articles on the power of the mobile phone in emerging markets

mPesa transaction
A number of articles illustrate the power of the mobile phone in emerging markets:

What next after the Mobile revolution in Kenya?
by John Karanja
MPESA will be on its own a major driver of the economic expansion of the Kenyan economy and best of all it will take a bottom up approach because it will empower the mama mboga (woman grocer) by allowing her to manage her finances efficiently.
[Now] MPESA needs to move from a payment system to a payment gateway: Safaricom should develop MPESA into a platform where other software developers can build applications on top of the platform an thereby increase utility and reach of this technology.
(Make sure to check the embedded videos)

Nokia Life Tools – a life-changing service?
by James Beechinor-Collins
Recently we saw the release of a bunch of new entry level devices and alongside their launch in Indonesia, was the introduction of Nokia Life Tools for Indonesia. This follows an already successful launch in India and Africa and forms part of a rollout across select Asian and African countries. So does it make a difference? It would seem so, as our selection of videos below suggest. With over 50 per cent of the population in Indonesia reliant on agriculture to make a living, Nokia Life Tools brings a new level of control to them.
(Make sure to check the embedded videos)

Mythes et réalités des usages mobiles dans les pays en développement
[Myths and realities of mobile use in developing countries] – an article series in French
by Hubert Guillaud
Part 1Part 2Part 3

Bangladeshis rush to learn English by mobile
By Maija Palmer in London and Amy Kazmin in New Delhi for the Financial Times
More than 300,000 people in Bangladesh, one of Asia’s poorest but fastest-growing economies, have rushed to sign up to learn English over their mobile phones, threatening to swamp the service even before its official launch on Friday.
The project, which costs users less than the price of a cup of tea for each three-minute lesson, is being run by the BBC World Service Trust, the international charity arm of the broadcaster. Part of a UK government initiative to help develop English skills in Bangladesh, it marks the first time that mobile phones have been used as an educational tool on this scale.

13 November 2009

Nokia has designs on India

India tailor
Nokia’s senior design specialists are touring India to discover how Indians use cellphones. Leslie D’Monte reports for New Delhi’s Business Standard.

Jhanvi Madan (not her real name), who lives in Mumbai , has been talking on her cellphone. Unknown to her, a stranger on the other side of the road is observing her carefully and taking copious notes.

There’s no cause for alarm, however. The person taking those notes is one of the 320 designers from the world’s largest handset maker, Nokia. Her name is Younghee Jung, and she’s a senior design specialist who flew all the way from the London Design Studio to spend around two weeks in Mumbai and some mofussil areas to understand how Indians use cellphones.

“This is a very common practice among us,” says Nikki Barton, Head of Digital Design, Nokia Design Studio. People and their behaviour “are Nokia’s prime concern”. “We all have different views on how a phone should look and what it should do,” acknowledges Barton, adding: “Nokia has to cater to thousands of users and we have to ensure that all of them are happy.”

Read full story

(via Dexigner)

12 November 2009

Singapore on design possibilities for tomorrow

Design 2050
The Singapore Design Festival, running November 20-30, now themed “Design 2050: Possibilities for Tomorrow,” , is also continuing its quest to improve people’s surroundings through good design for a better quality of life.

As already written up on this blog nearly three years ago, 10TouchPoints is a project of the Design Singapore Council, that has enlisted people in identifying things in their everyday public space that are irritating because of poor design.

Again, people are invited to identify opportunities for improved design, vote on the top ideas, and then participate in the re-design process.

Read more

4 November 2009

Nokia Life Tools tailored to the needs of Indonesians

Farmer
Nokia Life Tools was designed to help improve the livelihood and lives of farmers, students and many people in more remote and rural areas in emerging market countries.

It does this by offering easily accessible and up-to-date crop prices, education tools and entertainment packages, delivering this valuable information on a simple SMS backbone.

Nokia Life Tools has now been announced for Indonesia, where it has been tailored towards its people’s needs.

Read full story

30 October 2009

Videos of keynote speeches at Seoul design research conference

IASDR
Last week, the IASDR 2009 conference (International Association of Societies of Design Research) took place in Seoul, South Korea, and all videos of the keynote speeches are already available.

Donald A. Norman: Science and Design
I start with three contradictory views: First, that a science of design is already here; Second, that a science of design is possible, but not yet here; Third, that a science of design is neither possible nor appropriate. How can all three views be true? Because each speaks to a different aspect of the complex set of activities we lump together as design.
Three examples make the point: Engineers design, and for many, there already exists a science of design based upon rigorous methods of optimization, perhaps governed by critical axioms. Practitioners of interaction design, such as the human- or activity-centered approaches that I espouse, are active in the creation of a robust, repeatable science base. And finally, design has its creative and artistic side, developing novel solutions to “wicked” problems while providing aesthetically pleasing structures. Neither this kind of creativity nor its aesthetic sensibilities seem amenable to science, at least not yet.
But as the world grows more complex, more interconnected, with the underlying infrastructure less and less visible, hidden inside electronic and optical mechanisms, conveyed as all-powerful yet invisible information and knowledge, design more than ever needs a body of reliable, verifiable procedures. Science is the systematic method of building a reliable, verifiable, repeatable, and generalizable body of knowledge. Science is not a body of facts: it is a process. Design is the deliberate shaping of the environment in ways that satisfy individual and societal needs. Scientific methods can inform design. Designers can create a science of design.

Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders: Co-creation through generative design thinking
Co-creation is not just the next new thing in marketing. It is an alternative way of seeing and being in the world. Existing and thriving in the emerging co-creative landscapes will require the creation and application of new tools, methods and methodologies for connecting, innovating, making, telling and sharing. These generative tools must be useful and usable for all types of people. Generative design thinking provides a design language for all of us, designers as well as non-designers, to use in provoking the imagination, stimulating ideation, stirring the emotions, discovering unmet needs and facilitating embodiments of future possibilities. Examples of this generative design language in action, from projects ranging from consumer product and service development to the planning and architecture of new healthcare campuses, will be shared.
Building on the emerging co-creative landscapes will require that we hold new attitudes and mindsets about the people formerly known as ‘consumers’ or ‘users’. It will also require that designers and researchers take on new roles in addressing the rigor, relevance and sustainability needed for human-centered designing.

Kees Overbeeke: Eindhoven interaction design
The Eindhoven Industrial Design Department (ID) focuses on how to design for highly interactive intelligent systems. Our approach is shifting its research and teaching context from Human Product Interaction (HPI), mainly focused on opening up the functionality of a product, towards a broader approach to enhance dynamical aspects, interpersonal and societal values, including personal, aesthetic and socio-cultural ones, through the application of highly interactive intelligent systems.
The skills involved in designing systems are different from the skills that were needed before, (see figure 1). There will be overlap between the skills needed for ‘design for interaction’ and ‘design for appearance’ but there will also be a need for new skills.
In this talk, I expand on how far we are on this new road. What does it mean to design for systems? What does it mean for the educational system? And for practice? And for research? What sort of new (dynamical) design language will emerge? What sort of theories and philosophies can support this approach?
I give our answer to these questions. We developed a new design process, a new educational system and a new approach to research. Keyword in all this is integration: integration of disciplines, teaching and research, paradigms, technology and design etc. I strongly believe in the knowledge generation power of design as integrator. So, above all we need a new professionalism based on thinking with the hands, reflection on making.

Kazuo Kawasaki: Progressive Inclusive Design for the BOP
The capitalism has already ended.
When socialism was over, the capitalism also died.
However, because of having just dead capitalism system, we have faced the current global deceptions.
We, designers, have a duty to create new economic system, international political system, and a construction system of the information culture globally by design method.
The design is a possess to force innovation in every world system as business technique.
The design has been considered and treated as only the professional ability in developed, capitalism economy so far.
However, our design must be the leading role as methodology to solve the various problems which current Earth has.
Therefore, I will speak the logic to the focus of the design area.
Aiming of the design should innovative the evolution called Progressive Inclusive Design as the business studies-like method.
The Inclusive design can support the logic basis characteristics as logic from of the grammar in the human talks called the first person, the second person, and the third person as the national audiologies verification.
I will show my design works about the utility and the effect in the example which regards this Progressive Inclusive Design as design object for reverse the Bottom of the Pyramid in the world.
My expression is in this concept for the Bottom of the Pyramid, and businesses are required to overcome the current global deceptions.

Kyung-won Chung: “Caring for Citizens”: The New Value System of Seoul Design Excellence
I will start with how the meaning and roles of design have changed as the term is increasingly used in diverse fields in recent years. Traditionally, design used to refer to ‘fashion’ or ‘styling’ in close relationship with visual art. It, however, is frequently used in other disciplines such as engineering, management, even politics. Design can be categorized into three distinctive areas: visible design mainly for hardware; invisible design for services and hybrid design that is both visible and invisible. Design also deals with various issues such as green (sustainable, eco-friendly), universal (trans-generational) and others.
I will explain how Seoul City has performed various design initiatives since June 2006 when Mayor Oh Se-hoon’s took office as Mayor of Seoul City. Mayor Oh fully understands the importance of good design and set up the Seoul Design Headquarters (SDH) in April 2007. Under the new vision of “Caring for Citizens” and strategy of “Citizen-First Design”, I am directing the SDH that is composed of about 100 public servants who are undertaking 55 projects with about US $ 80 Million for implementing principles of public design, green design, and universal design in various activities of subsidiary headquarters, bureaus, and 25 autonomous districts in Seoul. SDH is also developing city’s design DNA such as the Seoul’s symbol Haechi (an imaginary animal that protects human beings from demons), Seoul fonts, Seoul colors, and Design Seoul guidelines.
I will discuss how Seoul city has pursued design initiatives in order to upgrade the quality of citizens’ lives and enhancing the competitiveness of the city through its new value system.

(via InfoDesign)

24 September 2009

Networked objects session at Lift Asia 2009 conference

Lift Asia 2009
Nicolas Nova reports on the “networked objects” session at Lift Asia 09.

Speakers were Rafi Haladjian (in transition from Violet to his new company called sen.se), Adrian David Cheok (from the Mixed Reality Lab in Singapore and Keio University) and Hojun Song.

Read full story

2 September 2009

How mobile is connecting people to what matters

The Progress Project
Via Dina Mehta, founder and managing director of Mosoci India, I found out about Progress, a highly interesting new website set up by Nokia and Lonely Planet:

“The Progress Project is the initiative set up by Nokia and Lonely Planet that is focused on capturing the human impact of mobile innovation; tackling social, environmental or economic challenges; bringing to life real stories of people through video. The site’s not fully live yet – I was told it will be up and running fully by Sept 3 – still, I thought I’d share this now, as videos of the documentaries that were made by the Lonely Planet and Nokia teams on our immersions into the Nokia Life Tools and Nokia Tej projects are already up there!”

Read full story

30 August 2009

Using Nokia Life Tools in India to learn English

Nokia Life Tools
Dina Mehta, founder and managing director of Mosoci India, reports on how Nokia Life Tools actually gets used in India, and more in particular, how the how the Learn English program, a part of Nokia Life Tools, really works on the ground.

“On the long drive to the villages, Natesh, Head of Nokia Life Tools, India spoke to us extensively about how they developed this concept. It started with debunking the myth that people in villages are so poor they cannot afford such tools, and figuring out through research, what would make a real difference. They found that the need “to better my life” is huge, and Nokia Life Tools might find a space in this, by making users “better prepared when the opportunities strike”. I believe this is a little step in that direction and has a lot of potential for distance education too.”

Read full story

Also check this follow-up article on the use of Nokia Life Tools by Indian farmers.

24 August 2009

Mobile phones drive health IT innovation in developing countries

 
Paula Fortner, iHealthBeat senior staff writer, reports on how innovative mobile technologies are helping to fundamentally transform health care in many developing countries.

“Last month, the Rockefeller Foundation announced a $100 million initiative to strengthen health systems in Africa and Asia by building capacity, supporting policy interventions and promoting health IT applications.

As part of its health IT strategy, the foundation intends to leverage mobile phone-based technologies to improve health care access, quality and efficiency.

Karl Brown, Rockefeller’s associate director of applied technology, explained that the foundation sees mobile health technologies “as sort of the front lines of e-health.” He said that although servers, databases and Web sites will be necessary to support the mobile phone applications, health workers can use the devices to extend their reach to regions that lack adequate health care infrastructure.”

Read full story