Hewlett-Packard is collaborating with a health monitoring service in Botswana to use technology to detect malaria outbreaks and stop them before they spread too far.

HP is providing webOS-based Pre 2 smartphones and cloud computing technology to nonprofit group Positive Innovation for the Next Generation (PING) to monitor disease outbreaks in the African country. The program is part of HP’s new strategy to deal with charitable donations; it now gives in-kind technology and expertise where it once donated money. The program shows how mobile technology can help change the world.

HP is providing mobile equipment to health workers and is training them how to report outbreaks of disease such as malaria. In partnership with the Clinton Health Access Initiative and mobile network provider Mascom, HP collects the data from the smartphones and organizes it in a database with navigation coordinates and other details. The data will contribute to a first-ever geographic map of disease transmission in the country. That in turn enables faster response and better measurement. It can also speed up the distribution of mosquito nets.

The program enables workers to do in hours what once took them weeks to figure out, said Paul Ellingstad, director of Global Health, Office of Global Social Innovation at HP. It gives advance warning to regions to be on the lookout for disease communication.

The program has been in pilot testing for a year and is the largest mobile health pilot in Botswana. Right now, somewhere around 700 to 1,000 health workers have the mobile phones. Future programs could be rolled out across Africa, said Ellingstad. HP has focused on creating a program that works and then scaling it up to a larger scale.

The World Health Organization reports that more than 780,000 people died from malaria in 2009, most of them children under 5. In Africa, 75 million people, or 10 percent of the population, are at risk to get malaria.

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