IDEO’s Next Global Challenge: Using Mobile Tech To Improve Maternal Care in Low-Income Countries


Today OpenIDEO launched its latest open innovation challenge–asking the global online community for its best ideas about how to improve maternal health with the help of mobile phones. The project is a collaboration with Nokia and Oxfam.

OpenIDEO is a crowdsourced design site where sponsors put forth a design challenge and individuals can offer input about how to address the stated problem. Participants gain in “design quotient” as they contribute more and as their contributions are “applauded” on the site. Winning concepts may be developed further by the host sponsors–in this case Nokia and Oxfam. (A previous challenge, sponsored by celeb chef Jamie Oliver, sought to raise kids’ awareness of healthy eating habits.)

The current challenge asks: “How might we improve maternal health with mobile technologies in low-income countries?” At issue are questions of cost, education, and awareness, and OpenIDEO has positioned Burkina Faso and Bangladesh as two possible implementation countries.

The initial phase of the challenge is called the “inspiration” phase and asks users to draw upon their own experiences, share information they come across and point out previous campaigns and initiatives that work. In about a month comes the “concepting” phase, followed by “applause” (kind of like “liking”) and “evaluation,” with the winners announced on April 22nd.

“At Nokia, we are very optimistic about the potential of mobile communication in health, whether or not we’re involved,” reads a statement from Nokia on the challenge page. “We are also mindful of the old saying, ‘when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.’ So, working with Oxfam and a broader community here is a good way to put mobiles in perspective as one tool among many, not a magic bullet.”

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