SIGHT (Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology)

Introduction

IEEE places great emphasis on humanitarian technology activities. As part of a strategic effort toward member engagement, the IEEE Humanitarian Activities Committee (HAC) instituted a program called Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (SIGHT). IEEE SIGHT is a global network of IEEE volunteers partnering with underserved communities and local organizations to leverage technology for sustainable development. You can learn more about IEEE SIGHT here.

IEEE SIGHT in Karachi

IEEE SIGHT Karachi was formed in 2013. The focus areas of SIGHT Karachi include Agriculture, Assistive Technology, Energy, ICT and general areas of humanitarian development. The geographic boundaries of the SIGHT Karachi group include the Sindh and Balochistan provinces. Below is a snapshot from the SIGHT website. You can visit the interactive map in its entirety here.

Mithi Telemedicine

Background

The Mithi Telemedicine was a social ICT project initiated and completed in 2013. This project was aimed to utilize the existing infrastructure of information and communication technology in a rural setting to bring about the social reforms in health sector of the Tharparkar district in the province of Sindh, Pakistan. This location, being in one of the farthest areas from developed communities, lacks some of the most basic health facilities. The map shows the location in orange of the Sindh province, and of the Tharparkar district in red. In the initial phase, a remote center was developed in Mithi, and was connected to a central point in Hyderabad, a larger urban center, for 15 days. Then its results were observed to find out the impact on local society.

Motivation

Tharparkar district is one of the most neglected areas in the Sindh province, with the least developed HDI among all districts of the province. It is home to 2.2 million people, and this population is growing at more than 3% per year. Almost 95% of people live in rural areas with inadequate and under quality medical healthcare facilities. As of 2013, there was only one civil hospital in the Tharparkar district. A major number of people are affected by hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, snake bites, and malaria. Malnourishment is common, illnesses are prolonged, and a reduced power of resistance result in high death tolls. People have to travel long distances to reach hospitals or to Karachi and Hyderabad – the major urban centers – if they are afflicted with any fatal diseases. Available healthcare facilities in the district include rural health centers, basic health units, government dispensaries, first aid medical centers and experimental dispensaries. Almost all of these are woefully inadequate, and none of these have medicines or quality health professionals to attend this deprived community.

What’s telemedicine?

With technology transforming the health sector worldwide, and telemedicine shifting the paradigms in healthcare provision, people living in remote areas no longer need to remain deprived of quality medical diagnosis. Using telemedicine and electronic health solutions, medical information is transferred for the purpose of assisting medical examinations and/or procedures quickly and efficiently. Telemedicine was chosen to not only improve the quality of health, but to also play a significant role in the overall improvement of the social problems in Tharparkar District. The three categories of telemedicine ecosystem include: Store and Forward; Interactive; and, Remote Monitoring – impact in these areas can cater to the healthcare needs of the people living in the Tharparkar district.

The path to implementation and success

The table below shows what the objectives were of the project, what activities were undertaken to achieve them, and the indicators which were used to measure the success of the project.

PROJECT OBJECTIVES ACTIVITIES INDICATORS
To provide basic health facility through telemedicine network Established a Central Point in Hyderabad

Established Remote Centers in the Tharparkar district

Timely combat epidemics

Improvement in health and hygiene awareness

To create direct/indirect employment opportunities Remote Centers worked as Franchise Spots where paramedics, technical and maintenance staff worked Reduction in unemployment
To assess the impact of ICT on society Elaborate records were maintained stating how many patients were treated How much time and money was saved through such a service

Using the network of telemedicine remote centers developed and connected to the central point in Hyderabad, patients across the Tharparkar district walk in to one of the remote franchise spots, where they were delivered consultation by physicians in Hyderabad through video conferencing. Both wired and wireless networks were used to connect with the central point in Hyderabad, and wireless networks using 3G and data enabled services of phone carriers were used to connect at the remote centers in Tharparkar with medical assessment gadgets. The point of contacts in Remote Centers were responsible of logistics system for movement of medicines and laboratory testing, hiring and training of doctors, paramedics and technical staff at the hub and at each of the kiosks.

The team

Dr. Fahim Aziz Umrani, Associate Professor at Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET), led this project, and were ably assisted by other faculty and students at MUET, including Attiya Baqai, Abdul Wahab, Najeeb, Deepak, Anees and Anum.

Community Engagement Workshop 

Building humanitarian engineering skillsets at IEEE Pakistan Congress

At the tenth edition of IEEE Pakistan Student, Young Professionals and Women in Engineering Congress in Karachi, more than forty volunteers from universities across the three SIGHT Section Groups of the country – Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi – engaged in a SIGHT community engagement skill building workshop. The Congress venue for this year was the Foundation of Advancement of Science and Technology, National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences (FAST NUCES) from September 30th to October 1st, 2016.

This workshop was primarily aimed at developing the thought process among engineers for global development, especially while working on projects in SIGHT groups. Inspiration for this workshop was drawn from the highly successful Human Centered Design Toolkit of IDEO.org, and the Engineering for Global Development course offered by Engineering for Change (e4c).

“Pakistan has a big youth bulge – around 60% of the population. It is important the young engineers in the country have the skills and knowledge on how to tackle problems in our own backyard. We have to fix our energy crises and breakdowns in health systems,” said Hassaan Idrees, one of the trainers.

Two case studies from IDEO.org were used: one, the challenge to improve healthy food system and two, to develop social entrepreneurship. These case studies were given to the groups, who were then taken thorough an activity set of discussing the ideation phase, to the planning process, and to the SIGHT logic model. The activities included intense thinking and discussions using a number of tools like the PESTLE analysis, which incorporates pertinent issues from political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental areas; risk analysis; budget development; and, project planning. The activity culminated in presentations by each team with their solutions, where they were grilled about the assumptions they made, and the solutions they proposed.

One participant, Hamza Baig, said “[The event was a] great experience, there was so much to learn. I suggest holding more of these workshops all over Pakistan.” On asking what could have been done differently in the workshop another participant, Muhammad Irfan Haider, said “We need to be practical in our thoughts, and should do a site visit to different areas for which we are conducting a study.”

The workshop presented the attendees the opportunity to take the learnings home, and implement them in more depth when working in their SIGHT Groups.

The team

Hassaan Idrees, Parkash Lohana and Amir Zahoor.

Powering villages, empowering communities

The first site assessment visit

Development in humanitarian technologies thanks to engineering have been few and far in between in Pakistan. To establish impactful programs and sustainable projects for the underserved communities, the SIGHT group of IEEE Karachi Section recently established a partnership with a nongovernmental organization based in Umerkot, Sindh.

AWARE, or the Association for Water, Applied Education, and Renewable Energy, has been operating in Tharparkar and Umerkot districts since 2003. Their work in the region can be read in more detail at the website: http://aware.org.pk/home. The SIGHT Chapter IEEE Karachi Section sought to develop a partnership with this NGO after their interaction at the All Pakistan Power and Energy Symposium (APPES) in October 2016 in Lahore, and three of their volunteers conducted a site assessment of the potential communities. Check out more detail about the APPES here. Based on the work that it has been doing in the community, the NGO – AWARE – has a good background in local knowledge and context, is cognizant of the challenges that exist on the ground, and facilitates to work toward making the initiatives into sustainable possibilities.

In Umerkot, which is a perennially drought ridden district, there are more than 23,000 villages, and more than 46% people (out of over 700,000) live with less than $1.90 a day. Rural female literacy is less than 10%. These are astounding numbers, even for a developing country like Pakistan, and they speak volumes about the need that exists for energy, education and empowerment. The area sees infrequent farming, and livestock rearing is more common. Women from some communities, however, have a great talent for hand stitched designing. During this assessment visit, possible areas of collaboration between SIGHT Karachi and AWARE seemed to be on energy, education and empowerment: design and installation of solar PV/wind turbine systems for energy access, working to make education a continued possibility in this region, and ensuring the communities are technically and financially sound enough to run and expand on these systems as to their needs.

The Green School Model at Hari Camp boasted 152 students, 95 boys and 57 girls, in two pre-elementary or early childhood classes, and in grades 1 to 5. Most children belong to parents who are in bonded labor, meaning their families work for a local landlord. Sadly, this makes it difficult for these children to attend school throughout the year.

Thanks to a project by some university students, which had a pump powered by PV modules, the community at Revi-ji-dhani enjoyed access to metered groundwater. A small community with about 30 households, and a total of 195 people. Revi-ji-dhani has mostly young demographic, indicating potential for education and the right business ideas and models.

Senhoi, a larger village than Revi-ji-dhani, comprised of about 5,000 people. Fortunate to be connected to the local power grid, Senhoi suffers from power outages that are long and frequent. A potential business model seemed to be working with women for handicrafts.

Volunteers from Karachi returned to their drawing boards with ideas and designs to battle real energy challenges on the ground, help the children attend school, and the men and women to become financially empowered.

You can watch a video on the site assessment visit here.

Next steps

The team is currently working on design and development of ideas for the project. Our next steps include application for funding, collaboration with our NGO, and onsite work.

The team

Hassaan Idrees, Parkash Lohana, Sarang Shaikh and Murtaza Hanif.