x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Mobile phone app to aid pregnant poor

Dubai student's prototype that helps mums-to-be in remote areas is one of the clever ideas entered in a global contest.

Rashida Daruwala, a Microsoft Windows 7 Marketplace Specialist for the ME and Africa, is just one of the competitors taking part in the Imagine Cup 2011.
Rashida Daruwala, a Microsoft Windows 7 Marketplace Specialist for the ME and Africa, is just one of the competitors taking part in the Imagine Cup 2011.

DUBAI // Shawn Frank has an idea to improve maternal health care in poor, remote villages.

The 20-year-old student at the University of Wollongong's Dubai campus will demonstrate his prototype software application at this year's Imagine Cup - a global competition developed by Microsoft to inspire young people to solve global problems with innovative technology.

"About 90 per cent of the maternal deaths happen because people do not have basic information, which could be as simple as hygiene-related issues and most of them are easily curable," said Mr Frank, whose project "momEcare" is a low-cost pregnancy and childbirth assistance system.

The application is a diagnostic tool allowing healthcare workers in remote areas a means of consulting with doctors. It also provides tutorials on a host of issues such as pre- and postnatal hygiene.

"So my mobile phone application will be controlled by the UN. They will distribute it to governments which need it and hand it around in villages.

"It's easy to use as it gives voice outputs and video tutorials. The device can keep tabs on pregnant women and create an online database to track progress."

But his phone application will face stiff competition from more than 33 other students in the region who are developing technology ranging from touch devices to aid the disabled, to software that can track petroleum shipments to minimise pollution.

The winners of the regional finals, to be held on April 25 in the UAE, will compete against teams from 120 countries in New York later this year.

Students from the University of Sharjah are presenting "touch.Edu", a learning platform that uses augmented reality-based technology to teach.

Rashida Daruwala, 21, one of the regional finalists from last year, is participating in that team this year as well.

"My team is using different touch platforms to devise educational programmes to help students with dyslexia read and write more efficiently," she said.

Ms Daruwala, a recent university graduate who has been using this platform to put her skills to use, also managed to impress the Microsoft bosses at the competition and was hired to work on their new applications this year.

"I am involved with developers who work on Windows 7 and this new application, Yalla Apps, which provides an alternative to the market place for students who want to publish their work and monetise it."

The competition that began in 2003 has helped realise the dream of many young innovators said Michael Mansour, group director of developer and platform technologies at Microsoft.

"It is very important to reach out to students graduating from schools and universities early on to make them aware of the possibilities and software out there that can help realise their innovation. Through the competition we try to give them the skill-sets and applications and see what they can produce," he said.

Many students have gone on to refine their applications to launch them in the market, said Mr Mansour. "The first team that won is in business today with 27 employees."

Ronak Dave, 21, another student who competed last year, saw the competition as a springboard for his career. "There are very few platforms for software development in the UAE at the moment," he said. "This is not just about sitting in a classroom and taking theory notes, which is important, but this gives us more practical experience." Mr Dave is now reworking his project to showcase it in next year's event.

aahmed@thenational.ae