andrew wanted to give people tools to solve their own problems.

Andrew Deonarine Alumnus, School of Population and Public Health,
Vancouver Campus

Master of Health Sciences grad Andrew Deonarine chose the Public Health and Preventative Medicine residency program through the Clinician Investigator program at UBC as a way to work on health issues in developing and developed countries. But as he was doing his general practitioner training at St. Paul’s hospital in Vancouver, working with refugees and people from disadvantaged communities, he realized that education and literacy could potentially solve medical problems more than medicine could. “I spent some time in India, where issues like malnutrition and childcare came down to education. I wanted to give people tools to solve their own problems.”

Inspired by the One Laptop per Child initiative, Deonarine figured cellphones might be a better medium through which to effect change. “Poor families can’t afford $100 for a laptop, but a lot of them have cellphones. I thought why not use the huge phone network in this part of the world to deliver education,” he says. “Flipping health and education around changed how I approached the issue.”

When he learned about the Economist-InnoCentive’s Challenge on 21st Century Cyber Schools, he took the opportunity to enter his idea for EduCell – a cellphone-based platform for delivery of educational programs. “It can teach you to read government applications, for example,” Deonarine says. “Multimedia apps speak to you and deliver little lessons.”

His idea won the contest, and he is now in talks with Nokia and a variety of non-profit organizations that can see the benefits of EduCell. “One of the key things about EduCell is that it gives you the opportunity to develop your own programs right on the phone. So an educator in Nigeria can write a program in a language called EduScript, publish it to a central website, and push it out to a million phones. So it’s not me who has to develop all the content. Hopefully teachers will begin to collaborate and eventually there will be a portal with EduScripts written for different languages and countries around the world.”

Mobile advances at UBC
UBC researchers working both in BC and around the world have helped to advance mobile communications. Their innovations range from a mobile phone tool to measure oxygen in blood to new protocols that could transform telecommunications. In June, UBC professor Robert Schober was inducted as a Canadian Academy of Engineering Fellow for outstanding contributions to the field of wireless communication.

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