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Mobile Phone Microscopes to Revolutionize Health Diagnostics

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

New UNOSSC banner Dev Cha 2013

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

Mobile phone usage has increased hugely across the global South in the past five years. In Africa, the number of mobile phone subscribers reached 545 million in 2013, while there are 3.5 billion mobile phone users in Asia and the Pacific (ITU). Some 93 million people in Africa and 895 million in Asia and the Pacific have mobile phone Internet access (ITU).

“Every day we are moving closer to having almost as many mobile-cellular subscriptions as people on earth,” Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, wrote in its latest report on their growth.

The number of mobile phone subscriptions in the developing world has surpassed 5 billion and the number in the world as a whole reached 6.8 billion in 2013 (ITU), out of a world population of more than 7.1 billion. This compares to considerably lower numbers of people with access to the Internet: 2.7 billion in the world (ITU).

While many people in poorer countries have basic versions of mobile phones, the next generation of smartphones has been growing in number as prices come down (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smartphone). Examples of these smart phones include the BlackBerry, Apple’s iPhone, the Samsung Galaxy, and the Nokia Lumia. Smartphones tend to have enormous computing power and an ability to run complex ‘apps’ or applications – including public transport options, maps, restaurant and store locators, banking services and market information and resources. They can also access the Internet through Wi-Fi, and have camera and video capability.

What people can do with these feature-packed phones is limited by little other than human imagination. With the ability to store large amounts of data and images, using apps that perform a limitless range of services and tasks, smartphones can be deployed as powerful tools to tackle problems.

Science fiction sagas have long fantasized about people being able to walk around with small electronic devices that can do immensely powerful tasks, including being a medical diagnostic tool. But this science fiction dream is rapidly becoming reality in the global South.

Various initiatives and innovators are using mobile phones and smartphones to conduct medical diagnosis and gather data for medical studies in real time.

Some innovations are even turning smartphones into mobile microscopes.

Developed by the University of California, Berkeley in the lab of Professor Daniel Fletcher (http://cellscope.berkeley.edu/), the CellScope (cellscope.com) is capable of turning the camera on a cell (mobile) phone into a diagnostic microscope with a magnification of 5x to 60x. Fletcher’s lab has also pioneered work on needle-free injection technology.

The CellScope can be used for ocular imaging (technologies for visualizing and assessing a range of diseases of the eye) and for detecting tuberculosis, blood-borne diseases and parasitic worms.

Fletcher is a bioengineer and was impressed with how much mobile phone technology has proliferated across the global South.

“You don’t have to put in these copper wires (for phone lines) anymore; you have the (cell) towers. It’s big business,” Fletcher told The Scientist Magazine.

“It’s leaping over the need for infrastructure.”

Fletcher and his colleagues experimented by attaching extra lenses to smartphones. They then used the phone to image cells that had been stained with fluorescent dyes to make them easier to see. The quality of the image was so good, they were able to diagnose malaria from blood samples and tuberculosis from sputum (spit) samples.

With the addition of image analyzing software, the phone was able to automatically count the number of Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacilli. They were trying to prove you did not need conventional microscopes to do this sort of diagnostic work.

Fletcher and his colleagues are currently trialling the technology in Vietnam, India, Cameroon and Thailand.

“Technology alone doesn’t create effective health care,” Fletcher emphasizes. “It’s got to be part of a context in which the information is captured and validated and is analyzed in the right way, and treatments are then available in response to information.”

Another group from Toronto General Hospital in Canada (http://www.uhn.ca/corporate/AboutUHN/OurHospitals/Pages/TGH.aspx) has ‘hacked’ an iPhone smartphone by placing a 1 millimeter ball lens on the phone’s camera. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist, had been investigating parasitic worm infections in children on Pemba Island off the coast of Tanzania. Along with Jason Andrews of Massachusetts General Hospital, they had been inspired by a report about how a team of researchers from the University of California, Davis had created a simple microscope out of an iPhone with a 1 millimeter lens. This makeshift microscope was used to take pictures of blood smears at a 350 times magnification and giving a 1.5 micron resolution.

“We thought that was a great idea,” Bogoch told The Scientist Magazine. Bogoch regularly works as part of an international team around the world, often in remote locations.

“We thought … we could take it to the field and see if it accurately works in a more real-world setting.”

Inspired, Bogoch got together with his colleagues and created a similar microscope with a 3 millimeter ball lens and then got to work using it to identify soil-transmitted helminth eggs in stool samples in Tanzania. When examining the stool samples of 199 children in a clinical trial using the makeshift microscope, they were able to accurately identify helminth infections in 70 per cent of the cases. They also found the iPhone microscope did very well at spotting eggs of particular parasites, such as 80 per cent of Ascaris lumbricoides infections (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascaris_lumbricoides). The success rate dropped significantly, however, when trying to detect whipworm parasites (just over half) and hookworm infections (14 per cent).

But this is early days and an experiment: “Obviously the results aren’t perfect and there’s definitely room for improvement,” Bogoch admits.

What stands out is the potential to completely revolutionize health care by continuing to develop the capability of smartphones. With their portability and low cost, they also have the advantage of not needing a trained physician to operate them, according to David Walker, president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, in The Scientist Magazine.

One of the many advantages of combining a microscope with a digital smartphone is the ability to take a picture and send it straight away to someone to make a diagnosis.

Even more exciting, Sebastian Wachsmann-Hogiu at the University of California, Davis (http://cbst.ucdavis.edu/people/sebastian/) is adapting mobile phones to undertake spectroscopy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectroscopy), using diagnostic test software to analyze samples on the spot. This, when successful, would be akin to the capabilities first mooted in the science fiction television and film series Star Trek (startrek.com). In Star Trek, the doctor is able to use a small handheld digital device to quickly diagnose what ails somebody.

The potential for this technology in the global South is significant. Aydogan Ozcan at the University of California, Los Angeles, who is also working on mobile phone microscopes, believes this is as significant as the dawn of the personal computer: “If you look at the early computers, they were bulky, they were extremely expensive,” he says.

But now computers “are portable … and almost anyone can afford them. The same thing is going on today (with microscopy). We are miniaturizing our micro- and nano-analysis tools. We’re making them more affordable; we’re making them more powerful.”

It looks like this science fiction dream will soon become today’s reality.

Resources

1) World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Database. Website: http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/stat/default.aspx

2) HealthMap: HealthMap was founded in 2006 by a team of researchers, epidemiologists and software developers at Boston Children’s Hospital. It is an established global leader in utilizing online informal sources for disease outbreak monitoring and real-time surveillance of emerging public health threats. Website: http://www.healthmap.org/en/

3) A home-made portable microscope: A design developed in the 1970s by Chinese students who fashioned a microscope from a plastic bottle. Website: http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/indexmag.html?http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/artjul00/awscope.html

4) Ways to make simple homemade microscope lenses. Website: http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/indexmag.html?http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/artoct07/jd-lens.html


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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David South Consulting Ranked In The Top 10 Million Websites

According to Siteefy.com, there are over a billion websites in the world (1,197,982,359 websites in the World as of January 2021), so to rank in the top 10 million isn’t that bad. And with the world’s population now heading towards 8 billion, it really isn’t that bad. However, we have been better. In 2015 (the year the UN launched its Sustainable Development Goals) we ranked in the top million (920,811), according to Alexa.

A lot has happened since (for example, Google changed its algorithm for search), but it is impressive the website still draws in a healthy readership. If you like what you read here or on our other websites (davidsouthconsulting.org), then we are happy to receive whatever you can afford to help cover the costs of keeping content online (see below) and creating new content. 

Global ranking for davidsouthconsulting.org as of 03/07/2022.
Global ranking for dsconsulting.squarespace.com as of 03/09/2022.

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Cities For All Shows How The World’s Poor Are Building Ties Across The Global South

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Cities for All, recently published by Habitat International Coalition, draws together thinkers and innovators in a compilation of case studies addressing the challenges of inclusive cities in the global South. The book seeks to articulate experiences of South-South cooperation and enhance the links between different regions. David South interviews the co-editor, Charlotte Mathivet.

Published: 24 August 2010

Global Urbanist (http://globalurbanist.com/2010/08/24/cities-for-all-shows-how-the-worlds-poor-are-building-ties-across-the-global-south)

The largest movements of people in human history are occurring right now, as vast populations relocate to urban and semi-urban areas in pursuit of a better quality of life, or because life has become intolerable where they currently live. In Arrival City, Canadian journalist Doug Saunders finds that this movement —

— is creating new urban spaces that are this century’s focal points of conflict and change — centres of febrile settlement that will reshape our cities and reconfigure our economies. These Arrival Cities are where the next great economic and cultural boom will be born, or where the next explosion of violence will occur.

For most, this process is chaotic, unplanned, and fraught with risk, hardship, poverty and stress; yet, because so many are also able to dramatically improve their life chances, many millions will continue to follow this path.

The speed of urbanisation makes the question of how to build liveable cities increasingly urgent. A new book hopes to help people get closer to solutions to these vexing problems.

Cities for All: proposals and experiences towards the right to the city, published by Habitat International Coalition (HIC) in Santiago, Chile, and co-edited by HIC’s Ana Sugranyes and Charlotte Mathivet, was launched during this year’s World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro, and highlights ways in which urban residents across the South are defining how they would like their cities to evolve, refusing to accept social exclusion and demanding a “right to the city”.

The book is published in three languages — EnglishSpanish and Portuguese.

“A lot of social initiatives based on the right to the city are coming from these ‘new cities of the South'”, says Mathivet. “The book highlights original social initiatives: protests and organising of the urban poor, such as the pavement dwellers’ movements in Mumbai where people with nothing, living on the pavements of a very big city, organise themselves to struggle for their collective rights, just as the park dwellers did in Osaka.”

“Another innovative experience came from the children’s workshops in Santiago, aimed at including children in urban planning in order to make a children-friendly city.”

The cities of Africa and Asia are growing by a million peole a week. If current trends continue, mega-cities and sprawling slums will be the hallmarks of this majority urban world. In sub-Saharan Africa, 72 per cent of the population lives in slum conditions. And by 2015, there will be 332 million slum-dwellers in Africa, with slums growing at twice the speed of cities.

“The consequences have produced a deeper gap between the city and countryside, and also within the city between the rich and poor,” said Mathivet.

Cities for All details African experiences from Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana and South Africa. Mathivet believes “one common topic affecting these countries is the problem of forced evictions, due to the rural exodus and growing urbanisation. It is therefore very important for the right to the city to include a perspective of linking the struggle between rural and urban movements, because problems in cities and the countryside are closely connected, especially in Africa.”

And the current surge to cities in Africa raises the issue of what type of development will occur. The book argues that cities aren’t automatically a solution to the plight of the poor. Cities need to be worked on, and many of the problems faced by the South’s fast-growing cities stem from a power imbalance.

“A very important thing to realise is that a city life is not a synonym for a better life or a miracle solution for poor people, nor for the ‘capitalist’ way of life,” says Mathivet. “African nations and their people have to find effective solutions on their own to overcome poverty — which they are doing — without copying development models from the North.”

“In my understanding, urban growth is not haphazard or poorly planned in ‘developing’ countries. Rather, I think that urban ‘planning’ or lack of planning is done with a goal of generating more benefits for powerful interests and fewer benefits for poor people.”

The book argues for a two-way relationship with the people who make up the majority of these fast-growing cities. And it says each city will have to customise its solutions.

“It is very difficult to apply social innovations to other countries without understanding the history and the social, economic, cultural and political context,” says Mathivet.

“Hope comes from learning of different experiences. For example, if a social movement in South Africa succsesfully avoided an eviction from a slum, it may help another social movement in Brazil to strengthen its own strategy. One of the book’s goals was to articulate the various South-South experiences and enhance the links between different regions.”

In one chapter, contributor David Harvey argues that “the right to the city is not simply the right to what already exists in the city; it is also the right to transform the city into something radically different.”

“The right to the city itself will not stop the over-whelming phenomenon of urban growth,” believes Mathivet. “The consequences produced by implementing this collective right would rather change people’s daily lives by achieving more equality in cities as well as in the relationship between the city and coutnryside in regards to growing urban populations.”

Cities for All highlights the existence of ‘cities without citizens’: the vast numbers of slum dwellers and the poor who live mostly ignored by authorities (unless they are in the way of commercial development).

“The expression ‘cities without citizens’ means the exact opposite of the right to the city proposal,” Mathivet says. “This alternative to the present global paradigm proposes to allow people to participate in the process of creating the city in terms of urban planning, decision-making, budget, public policies, etc. It is possible for people to influence their own lives and the community.”

“There is no miracle solution, and the right to the city is a banner around which people can organise themselves to articulate their struggles and demand social justice.”

The book concludes by arguing for the advantages of a ‘slow city’ approach. But how does this work in fast-growing urban areas where people are looking to quickly escape poverty, or are seeking rapid improvements to their quality oflife? Would they not find a slow city approach frustrating?

Mathivet believes a leap of imagination is required: “Cities for All is not intended to be a recipe book. The slow city experience was chosen as a conclusion to the book in order to present a different approach, but not to propose a clear solution to follow. Concluding with the slow city experience, which is radically different and difficult to apply in African and Asian cities, where the spread of urbanisation is uncontrollable and leads to major problems, emphasises that the fight for the right to the city involves imagination and the desire for another possible city …

“Moreover, slow city experiences have been developed otuside of wealthy European countries, for example in some small Argentine and South Korean cities.”

And with the coming decade unfolding, what will cities in the South be like? Are we on the cusp of a new, dark age akin to the misery of Europe’s cities during the industrial revolution?

Mathivet acknowledges that “we can see a dark future where the interests of the most vulnerable will not be the priority. However, looking at the experiences by and for the people, we cannot consider them poor, but rich of knowledge, cognitive capital, and with courage to change their lives and their communities, through self-management and autonomy.

Cities for All aimed to show this richness … the challenges are for civil society to deepen links between different movements to build a stronger global strategy, during events like the next World Social Forum in Dakar, February 2011.”

David South is an international development consultant and writer. He writes the Development Challenges: South-South solutions e-newsletter for UNDP’s Special Unit for South-South Cooperation. He led the Communications Office for the UN in Ulaanbaatar from 1997 to 1999 and has worked for the UN in South Africa, Turkmenistan and Ukraine.

The Special Unit for South-South Cooperation is mandated to promote, coordinate and support South-South and triangular cooperation on a global and UN-systemwide basis.

This story is adapted from a piece in the July 2010 edition of Development Challenges.

http://globalurbanist.com/2010/08/24/cities-for-all-shows-how-the-worlds-poor-are-building-ties-across-the-global-south

https://www.hic-net.org/es/hic-book-cities-for-all-shows-how-the-worlds-poor-are-building-ties-across-the-global-south/

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

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CASE STUDY 6: International Consulting | 1999 – 2014

Expertise: Project evaluation, strategy, project management, project delivery, UN system, MDGs, research papers, media strategies and digital media strategies.

Locations: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Kiev, Ukraine, Pretoria, South Africa, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan 2000 to 2006

Consultant: David South

Click here to view images for this case study: CASE STUDY 6: International Consulting | 1999 – 2014 Images

Abstract

From 1999, I worked as a consultant for United Nations (UN) missions in Africa, Asia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, for USAID Mongolia and for a UK-based international development consultancy. 

About

Was the United Nations being effective and reflecting the potential for change in the mobile and information technology age? What needed to change? Who were the policy innovators?

This work included overseeing various digital media projects, including the strategic re-development of the UN Ukraine web portal, aiding in the rolling out of the media campaign for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Mongolia, including the first use of infographics in the Mongolia UN mission, advising on strategies for youth engagement in development goals in South Africa, and support to the UN mission in Turkmenistan as it finalised its United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) with the government and also work with UNICEF there. What I learned during this period proved crucial to the insights and thinking reflected in two highly influential United Nations publications, e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions, and Southern Innovator magazine (developed in 2010). 

This period was particularly advantageous because I had a front-row seat to the unfolding digital and mobile information technology revolution sweeping across the emerging markets and the global South. I also had insight into what worked and didn’t in international development as well as the UN system. I also learned a great deal about development challenges first-hand in highly varied countries, how the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were actually being rolled out, and met amazing people who were challenging existing precepts on how to do development. All of this work proved very useful later on. 

I have either travelled to, or worked and lived, in many countries, enhancing my global perspective and affording me a valuable trove of knowledge that has in turn informed my work in international development. I have always paid attention to the level of development in the country, how it has organized itself, the quality of its design, and how it interacts with other countries for trade and relations. The countries visited to date include: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Canada, China, Cuba, Denmark, Domenica, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guadalupe, Haiti, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montseratt, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Vatican City. A fascinating mix of countries – some holders of top place on the UN’s Human Development Index – and others where human development is at its worst. Seeing with your own eyes what works and what does not is highly illuminating, while knowing first-hand how human development can be improved is critical for giving informed advice.  

Timeline

1999/2000: USAID Mongolia (design and publicity strategy for business development brochure, US Mongol (Mongolia) Construct and US tour, work with Riverpath Associates in the UK on communications strategies and the drafting of papers for the American Foundation for AIDS Research, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, UNCTAD, Harvard Institute for International Development, and the preparation of the report and launch strategy for the World Bank’s Task Force on Higher Education. 

http://www.davidsouthconsulting.com/blog/2018/1/10/us-mongol-construct-2000-business-prospectus-building-a-new.html

http://www.tfhe.net

2000: UN Ukraine: strategic re-development of the UN Ukraine web portal and incorporation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). 

2004: UN Mongolia (media campaign for MDGs) and UN South Africa (evaluation of youth NGO associated with the University of Pretoria and its projects and providing a strategic marketing plan).  

2005: UN Mongolia (media campaign for MDGs) and UN Turkmenistan (finalising its United Nations Development Assistance Framework – UNDAF).

Rukhnama publishers in Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat (2005). Photo: David South
An infographic commissioned for UN Turkmenistan MDGs report (2006).

2006: UN Turkmenistan (work with UNICEF). 

Testimonials 

“I highly recommend Mr. David South as a communications consultant who gets results.” Brian DaRin, Representative/Director, USAID Investment & Business Development Project, Global Technology Network/ International Executive Service Corps-Mongolia, 23 September 1999

Impact 

Micro 

  • working as a communications consultant for UN missions – Ukraine, South Africa, Mongolia, Turkmenistan
  • redeveloping mission websites, preparing content, reports, advising on communications strategy
  • working with local designers on new ways to present development data through inforgraphics (2005/2006) 

Macro 

  • in the course of travel and work, seeing the unfolding impact of the global communications revolution, in particular the rapid roll-out and take-up of mobile technologies, and the urgent need for the UN system to take this on board. Also witnessed firsthand the grassroots solutions revolution brought about by information and mobile technologies and the Internet, which needed to be fully embraced by the UN 

Resources 

A Marketing and e-Marketing Strategy – the New SASVO, Prepared from December 2004 to February 2005 for the Southern African Student Volunteers (University of Pretoria). 

A Moment in Time: AIDS and Business, American Foundation for AIDS Research, 1999 

Closing the Loop: Latin America, Globalization and Human Development, UNCTAD, 1999 

David South Consulting Summary of Impact 1997 to 2014

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Innovations in Green Economy: Top Three Agenda

Mongolian Media Project Infographic

Peril and Promise: Higher Education in Developing Countries, World Bank/UNESCO Task Force on Higher Education, 2000

South-South Cooperation for Cities in Asia

Southern Innovator

Southern Innovator and the Growing Global Innovation Culture

Southern Innovator Summary of Impact 2011 to 2012

Southern Innovator Summary of Impact 2012 to 2014

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2017