Isaac Holeman, Guest Lecture for ICT 150: Experience ICT Class

Monday, Oct. 10 - Isaac Holeman, Co-founder of Medic Mobile and Gates Cambridge Scholar spoke virtually to Deloris Foxworth's ICT 150: Experience ICT class about ICTs for Global Health Equity: Medic Mobile's Story. 

Holeman co-founded Medic Mobile and until 2012 he co-led the organization with a focus on implementation, impact strategy, designing first versions of Medic Mobile's SIM card and web applications, and developing human centered design as an organization-wide competency. He was named mHealth innovator of the year in 2011, awarded Echoing Green, Compton and Pamplin fellowships, and inducted into the Better World By Design hall of fame. He is currently a Gates Cambridge Scholar, and his role now revolves around practicing design and conducting delivery research to improve and spread Medic Mobile's approach.

Briefly, Medic Mobile is a nonprofit organization that develops and deploys communication technologies in rural communities. Medic Mobile implements a human-centered design approach; meaning that users are at the very core of the organization.

At the beginning of the presentation, Holeman outlined three big ideas or lessons: 

  1. ICTs as health systems strengthening tools (not solutions) 
  2. Successful projects address design and organizational challenges 
  3. Equity issues arise in choosing who we design for 

So, let's get right to it. 

ICTs as health systems strengthening tools 

Medic Mobile has worked in more than 20 countries on more than 70 health-related projects. The organization works to expand access to medicines, improve material and newborn health, increase vaccination coverage, stop antibiotic and vaccine stock outs, and help more people receive treatment. 

Tools that the organization has been implementing in hard-to-reach areas since 2010 involve freeform text messaging, parallel SIM cards that are loaded with Medic Mobile health care applications, The Medic Mobile App, a cloud-based and local web application, a remote temperature sensor for vaccine refrigerators, and an extensive analytics platform. 

These kinds of investments in technology do make sense, if we're using them in a way that we strengthen the capacity that's already there. If we're able to make health workers more efficient, more effective, able to provide better care, expand the reach of the services they provide, then ICT projects can be super worthwhile. 

Each of the tools support any language and can function with or without connectivity. For more information on Medic Mobile's toolkit, visit:

Click here for a demo of Medic Mobile's Application.  

Takeaway: A solution is a complex array of technology, people, routine service delivery, organizations, funding schemes, etc. A good ICT can be a tool (not a solution) and can be used to strengthen a health system. An ICT shouldn't be in competition with another investment area. 

Successful projects address design and organizational challenges

Medic Mobile incorporates insights from focus groups and interviews into their design processes. The four phases of the design process include: discover, define, prototype, and deliver. In the video below, the team uses design cards as part of the ideation phase in order to map out the health system, give feedback, and implement solutions. 

Medic Mobile Design Cards in Action: Antenatal Care

By using a tactile, tangible way of communicating; we can get more people engaged. 

Click here to access Isaac Holeman's TEDxCambridge talk on global health, design thinking, and social justice. 

Takeaway: If you have a broader view of the design process then there are more opportunities to redesign and improve what you're doing based on the organizational challenges. 

Equity issues arise in choosing who we design for  

Who are we designing technologies for? What sorts of people? What sorts of situations are they in? Holeman briefly touched on a few equity and social justice issues that play a unique role in the Medic Mobile planning period. It's important to keep in mind your audience when designing and implementing a new technology. 

What happens as a society when most of the people building great ICTs are doing so in a way that's familiar and convenient, rather than walking that last mile. 

Check out Medic Mobile's most recent, Q2 2016 Report.  

Takeaway: You can learn a lot when you choose who you design for and who you design with. 

Visit the DIY Toolkit site now! 

Hope Phones - a recycled phone can fund healthcare programs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Learn more today! 

About Medic Mobile  

Medic Mobile is a nonprofit organization founded in 2010 to improve health in the communities that are hardest to reach. We design, build, deliver, and support open-source software for health workers and health systems – helping provide better care that reaches everyone. Each member of our team was drawn to this mission and emboldened by a vision of global health equity. Our diversity of skills and experiences helps us tackle complex challenges – we look forward to hearing from you and exploring ways to work together.For additional information about Medic Mobile, visit:!