Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Curing TB - now with free cellphone minutes!

There's a fascinating, and slightly gross article here which talks about the difficulties in curing TB in developing nations. The short of it is that it is really hard to convince most people to continue to take their pills for a whole six months. I've been told this is quite the problem the world over. When I was in the Philippines last year, it was definitely present there, and presents huge problems because if you don't take the whole 6 months of pills, the viruses predictably come back more resistant to antibiotic treatment, hurting not only the person involved but everyone that they might spread the resistant TB too. This is a very cool solution to a very real problem, and worth the read.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Let's make power with a string!

Alrighty, this isn't software related, but it is darn cool. Shawn Frayne, a 28 year old inventor has managed to create a device that harness the power of wind at 10-30 times the efficiency of a windmill. These devices are very small and can be produced very cheaply, and could be a great boon to remote, developing locations such as Haiti. Check out the video from popular mechanics.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Social Justice Programming

It's hard to be a programmer who cares about the world around you. There isn't the directness of other disciplines. You can't walk up to a starving child and give them a sheet of code, it just doesn't help. If you're a water engineer, you can help build a new well. A sanitation engineer can help with desperately needed, erm, sanitation. Agriculture, nutrition, etc, these are all very directly applicable and needed skills throughout the world, but Software Engineering is harder.

Still, I am a Software engineer, and I love it, so how do I help? I have been struggling with this idea for years, but now I've decided that I want to start bringing it to my blog, and the first, somewhat quirky thing I'd like to mention is mobile phone money. (Yes, I hear the skepticism, but hear me out!) :)

There are a couple new project, one called M-PESA and the other called "Hello Money" and both of them are being launched in more violent, less safe parts of the world, and for good reason. It turns out, according to David Birch and Bruce Sterling at the LIFT|ASIA conference, that cash is actually the hardest thing for poor people to use, and it is no wonder that in places like Kenya, people use their SIM cards as currency because they are more secure and less dangerous to carry than paper money.

Also, thanks to the fantastic people at Adaptive Path for turning me onto this.