Find the Blind – Project.

Lately, I’ve been contributing to this project ‘Find the Blind’, developing a technical solution to one of its functions. This has been a part-time thing that I’ve been working on along with my friend Deepan Subramani (developer at Thoughtworks), who has decided to help in his spare hours. This project is very special to me personally, and I’m sure this could help improve, in its own little way, the way we use technology for improving healthcare in rural areas.

This article serves two purposes:

1. We’re announcing it publicly, so it pushes us to deliver  (since we’re all working part-time on this).

2. It is also an effort to attract like-minded people to come along and help us with the project. Contributions are required on all fronts, especially technically and financial sponsorship-wise.

So, here we go..

Find the Blind is a project undertaken by Dr. Ashwin Mallipatna to detect and treat visual defects in children at a very early stage, especially in rural areas. More about this effort here.

Visual defects not detected and treated at early stage can later lead to severe consequences, total vision loss being one of them. This affects the overall future of the country with many youngsters coming out with visual defects, that could have been treated. With this vast a population, it poses many challenges to detect these defects at an early stage. This project tries to solve this problem with a social strategy involving village panchayats and schools in the overall setup.

With the above introduction, I move on to the technical point. There are two areas which need some technical intervention.

One, with the detection of the defect itself. Medical instruments are very costly and mostly static (stay in one premise). Portable ones have low degree of accuracy and aren’t suitable for rough handling. To solve this, the team went with an innovative Red reflex screening method, where an inexpensive digital camera with the right parameters and subject conditions is used to take appropriate readings. This strategy was well received and was recognized as a technology innovation by MIT’s publication. You can read more about it here.

Second part is location part. Since rural areas aren’t well connected, it becomes difficult for a team to keep track of all patients identified and  schedule visits  for regular check-ups. It is essential to have a system that can help locate a patient’s house and also allows access to patient’s information for viewing and modifying.

This is where our technical solution comes into play. Here are few brief details regarding the solution:

It involves an android based smartphone/tablet, which the health-worker carries. Our application deployed to the device would help the health-worker to locate the patients by giving out directions to the patient’s address. It also acts as an offline data collection tool, which the health worker uses to gather health information about the patient. Later the patient’s health details gets uploaded to the central server. The back-end patient system is build with django/python and will be the central store for all the information. The data exchange between the android client and the django server is in json format.

The two of us, I and Deepan, have just started implementing the above mentioned solution and looking to finish in the coming month or two. We should be able to get it up and running by the end of July to beginning of August.The project will undergo a pilot till the end of this year in a village near Bangalore, and (after its success) will be launched for use in other parts of the state.

It is going to be an extensive effort on part of everyone involved, and we’ll try our best to pull it off the best way we could.

If you’d like to contribute in anyway possible to this, please write back to me at satya[at]satyanarayan.in stating the way you’d like to contribute.

Note for contributors:

We’re looking for contribution primarily in the following areas:

Technology:

1. Developers on android/python/django platform.

2. Architects to help review the solution design.

Financial Sponsorship:

3. To procure hosting environment. We’ll probably go with EC2.

4. Android devices. One tablet with GPS and one/two smartphone.

Social Project Execution

5. We’d need some project co-ordinators to help with the social activity.

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