The Indian government asked Apple to develop software to run on the Newton PDA that would permit rural healthcare workers to keep more accurate census and family planning records. I was part of the initial team who made many trips to rural Rajasthan to study the people, environment and healthcare system to inform the design of the product.
Challenge: Inaccurate capture of census and family planning data in rural India costs the government significant time and money. It makes planning for healthcare needs. Records are traditionally paper based and written in many different languages. Accuracy is lost when data is translated into English and transferred up the healthcare hierarchy.
Response: This type of research was ground breaking for Apple and the Government of India. There are no rules for developing products like this. My response was to assimilate what I saw and act as communicator to the team and beyond and explain the value of what we were doing and why it was important.
I set about collecting and analyzing all the official healthcare documents the nurses had to fill in, then had them translated into English. This activity revealed much about the wide spread number of Governmental programs in effect and would inform the information architecture of the software.
Writing and producing the video “Padma’s Story: A Day in the Life or a Rural Indian Healthcare Worker” helped our sponsors see the unmet needs of the 360.000 auxiliary nurse midwifes of rural India and our work to try and solve some of them.
Noticing the absence of electrical outlets in rural villages and field hospitals I designed a portable solar power panel to charge the Newton. The panel was sewn into a shoulder bag the nurse carried on her rounds.
Results: The project was ahead of its time and the problems we uncovered are multi layered, dynamic and just as relevant today as they were in 1994. The video and papers I published continue to be sited by students of mobile healthcare research to this day.
The software was completed and prototyped on the Newton 2000. Tests revealed it performed well in early field trials. The technology was transferred to India where its development continued, not in the healthcare market but for use by commodity dealers in the trading of tea.
Role: Design, research, information architect, documentary maker.