A project in rural India shows the life-saving power of something we use every day.
There's nothing like the simple joy of a cellphone upgrade.
That exciting moment when you trade in your old model and realize what a brick it is compared to the latest mobile technology.
In some parts of the world, cellphone upgrades are about so much more than coolness or mere convenience.
Take places like Bihar — one of India's poorest states, with almost 70% of its residents living in poverty — where they're solving matters of life and death.
Bihar has some of India's highest mortality rates for mothers and babies, and outmoded practices have made that hard to overcome.
Health care workers making home visits in Bihar carry unruly stacks of ledgers to record and track medical information for hundreds of thousands of households.
Having to lug all that extra weight from home to home wasn't the only problem; the system was also incredibly time-consuming and fraught with inaccuracies.
Cellphones are proving to be an effective tool for improving health outcomes for women and children.
Despite Bihar's poverty and extreme inequality, cellphones have become common among even the poorest workers. Many low-income Biharis, who are more likely to migrate in search of jobs, rely on them to stay connected to their families.
"Technology, tools, and training lead to transformation."
Now, humanitarians have found another vital use for cellphones in Bihar. International aid group CARE has made it possible for hundreds of Bihari health workers to trade armfuls of paper for cellphones. Through a partnership with Windows as part of its Upgrade Your World initiative, CARE will continue to support these health workers and women like them all over the world.
The phones have apps that allow health care workers to quickly set up appointments and gather information.
The results have been astounding. In just three years, the mobile-equipped workers made over 600,000 home visits. 20% more pregnant women are getting home visits, and 13% more mothers and newborns are getting a follow-up visit within the first week after birth. This means more women and their babies are getting professional care when it’s most critical.
Improved health care access is just the start of what cellphones are making possible.
All of that data is being stashed in the cloud, where it can be analyzed for trends so the government can design and deploy bigger picture health strategies.
That means happier and healthier mothers and children...
...and health care workers who are confident in their ability to make a difference.
This initiative offers a hopeful lesson for humanitarians everywhere: The challenges may be great, but we may already have what we need to address them.
It's just a matter of connecting those resources with the right people because, says CARE's Ram Krishna, "technology, tools, and training lead to transformation."