Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (VII). Javier Simó: Observing the EHAS-URJC case: symbiosis among ICT4D projects, research and postgraduate teaching

Notes from the Fifth IPID ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium 2010, held at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, on September 9-10th, 2010. More notes on this event: ipid2010.

Observing the EHAS-URJC case: symbiosis among ICT4D projects, research and postgraduate teaching
Javier Simó

The EHAS Foundation and ICT4D

How can telecommunications help in development? Who benefits from our technology? Is technology neutral? What and which are the real needs?

Let’s be humble and rigorous. Let’s address one only problem and keep working on it for decades, improving and improving… let’s do as much as possible to make telemedicine to be a useful and sustainable development tool for isolated rural areas in Latin America. This is the aim of EHAS Foundation.

The first thing that was done was a problem tree. Then, communication networks were conceived in order to try and solve the different (communication) problems identified. And, over those networks, create, adapt or improve applications to provide medical services. Everything was to be done with a local partner, always.

A core aim has always been sharing and transferring knowledge, learning together.

EHAS usually works in isolated areas, without any kind (or definitely expensive as satellite) of communications infrastructure, and with snail-mail based services. Thus, the idea is to set up broadband appropriate technologies over which run common services.

The Napo Network, for instance, covers 500Km in the Amazon region, from Iquitos to the border between Peru and Equador, and links several primary healthcare centres and healthcare workers.

How is practice, research and teaching in ICT4D put together?

In a first stage, some “just development – no research” solutions are put into practice. They are based in narrow-band communications, with adapted sets of standard solutions. The problem is that these solutions, though technically sexy (e.g. send e-mail via VHF radio) are often unsustainable: they are too difficult to implement, and difficult to use.

On the other end there’s the possibility to wait until ubiquitous solutions brind all common services everywhere. Which, besides illusory, provides little interest.

The solution is low-cost appropriate technology that requires lots of research and development. Good results are only possible after long-term research and high investments.

But once the network is built, the network itself becomes a laboratory: it permits to evaluate technology, improve strategies for sustainability, a shared infrastructure for several purposes, a platform over which to develop new services (tele-stethoscopy, health info-systems, tele-microscopy), etc. Lots of research subjects arise once the technology is put at work.

After 12 years working this way — development, research, development, research, etc. — it was time to share formally, so here came the URJC’s M.Sc. in Telecommunication Networks for Developing Countries. The master provides an excellent framework where M.Sc. theses can be done.

Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (2010)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2010) “Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (VII). Javier Simó: Observing the EHAS-URJC case: symbiosis among ICT4D projects, research and postgraduate teaching” In ICTlogy, #84, September 2010. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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  1. Pingback: IPID ICT4D Symposium 2010: Day 1 Recap – Ritse Erumi | RitseOnline...Developing Beta (Technology + International Development + Everything Beyond & Between)

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