All good things, of course, but with mobile technology having passed its novelty stage, some uses hold greater portent. The traditional role of the cellphone is evolving rapidly to provide more computing power, increased display capabilities, and enhanced Web connectivity. These projects are using the increased power of smartphones to explore bold, novel, and unconventional approaches to providing much-needed healthcare services. People are beginning to envision scenarios in which the ubiquity of such devices can have a more consequential impact, one that promises not only to empower individuals, but also to improve the lives of entire communities.

A couple of these projects have been made possible by a Digital Inclusion request for proposals (RFP) issued by Microsoft Research Redmond‘s External Research & Programs group. The RFP was designed to encourage and support deep academic research to achieve breakthroughs in digital inclusion, and researchers in South America and Africa have stepped up to the challenge.

In Argentina, Guillermo Marshall and Marcelo Risk of the Laboratory for Complex Systems within the Computer Science Department of the University of Buenos Aires are pursuing the construction of a digital-inclusion kit to expand the frontiers of computer technology in health and higher education. In Botswana, Henry Nyongesa of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Botswana is striving to provide access to information that can improve the management of chronic health conditions.

Two projects, two continents, one complementary objective: bringing better healthcare to underserved populations via mobile devices.

Some background information on Mobile Research and data collection to provide better healthcare and to better serve the world. Written in 2007, it’s interesting that more has not been done in this arena. Seton Hall’s Center for Mobile Research and Social Change aims to help foster a broader perspective of how the evolution of mobile technology can and will impact social justice, environmental and world health issues, among others.

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