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Saving Lives Around the World - All Without the Internet

The internet is a powerful tool. We use it every day and have seemingly unlimited access to its unending resources. Because of its immediate availability, we often take it for granted. What would we do if we didn't have the connectivity that we have?

This is the question that many non-profit organisations and socially-minded businesses have asked themselves when working in third-world countries around the globe. Without the benefit of freely available internet service, these socially focused groups have become creative with the tools they have- simple cell phones and radios.

Here, we share with you some of the fascinating innovations developed for impoverished nations that utilize simple technology to solve complicated real-world issues. These initiatives and others like them are saving the lives of millions in impoverished nations.

Text messaging makes getting medical results in remote locations faster.

In much of Africa, internet is an expensive commodity. It's not readily available in most developing African nations. As a result, researchers, software developers, and doctors searched for years to find a solution that provided better medical care and health education to people living in remote locations.

Enter SMS text messages. As many families now have cell phones, simple text messages can be sent to broadcast major health education strategies.

Organisations like mHealth in Africa use these simple messages in countries to provide medical guidance for preventable diseases. In places where malaria has run rampant, mHealth sends wide-broadcast text messages reminding people to use bednets.

SMS messages also provide accurate information on prescription drugs. The World Health Organisation estimates that as much as 20-30% of "prescription" drugs either have no active ingredients or incorrect ingredients, resulting in the deaths of thousands. The mPedigree Network developed a software program called Goldkeys a system that allows users to text in a code printed on all prescription medicines to identify counterfeits from real medicines in participating countries. This system has saved countless lives.

Radio programs help farmers grow, harvest, and sell better crops.

In many developing countries, especially in Africa, the phone-to-people ratio is approximately 1 to 100. In many cases, SMS messages are not the best form of communication. In most countries, however, as much as 70% of the population owns simple AM/FM radios. Especially in areas that are more remote and are home to farmers, radio communication has become a key tool for survival.

Farm Radio International is a non-profit organisation that develops relevant scripts, informational campaigns, and weekly news services to local radio stations throughout Africa. Individual stations then choose what information is relevant to their area and share with their listeners. This includes information to help increase food supplies, education on proper nutrition and health practices, as well as other farming-related relevant information.

Radio has also been used to spread political information, health initiatives, and discuss gender relations. In a place where many people are illiterate, radio provides a medium where news can be shared and easily understood by millions.

While we, in developed countries, take our fast-moving technology for granted, those in the developing countries around us are continuing to use what we may consider to be "dated" systems. These systems, however, are using creative innovation to change the lives of millions and improve their quality of life.

At HappyPorch, we strive to work with companies and organisations that need to develop unique systems like these in order to support those living and working in developing nations. We care about people, life, and value; our goal is to partner with these groups and support their worthy causes.

We believe that innovative technology doesn't have to be a "flashy" website or complex mobile app. Rather, these systems are developed to fit into real-world situations that help solve real-world problems. As a result of these technologies, more people understand how to better care for themselves and their families. While we continue to innovate together, socially-minded businesses and non-profit organisations are creating exciting programs we hadn't imagined, amazingly, all without the need of the internet.

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About the author

Barry O'Kane

Barry is the founder of HappyPorch. With 20 years in the web development industry as a programmer and agency owner, he has a preternatural ability to decipher the systems and processes code that holds many teams back from achieving their goals. Partners say Barry gets to the root of issues quickly and makes it downright easy to deliver good work.    

While he's unbelievably grounded, it's not uncommon to find him sailing through the trees as he paraglides his way round the world.