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Power to the people: Designing for good

Digital technology is giving people the power to change their lives and the world around them. However, this power can only be made real through new, intuitive and desirable design languages.

We increasingly take technology for granted, using apps to make our already privileged lives even more convenient. However, this same technology has the potential to become a tool for change in developing countries where poverty and illiteracy are widespread but smartphone ownership and usage is plentiful. We have the power and the responsibility to use our skills to create digital design to reach and help people in need, offering a helping hand and changing their lives for the better.

Peek Vision really brought this to the world’s attention last summer and is testament to the power and life-changing impact digital design can have. Ranked among the category winners of this year’s Designs of the Year Awards, the smartphone based portable eye examination kit can be used by non-experts to carry out a range of eye health checks to diagnose and prevent blindness in people in low income and remote communities. And initiatives such as this have spawned a wave of amazing new innovations.

Low cost and mobile antenatal app, WinSenga, helps increase access to quality and timely antenatal care and monitor fetal heart rate during labor, especially in rural areas. With an estimated 2.6 million stillbirths, 2.9 million neonatal deaths and 287 000 maternal deaths recorded annually in Africa, the life-saving potential of WinSenga speaks for itself. (Source: Designindaba.com)

New technological innovations have revolutionized the function and efficiency of our lives, putting knowledge, education and enlightenment at our fingertips – and, in the case of the innovations mentioned here, practical health-giving and life-saving help. But the success these innovations share is driven by a striking and common factor: an optimised user experience expressed through comprehensive design.

For example, working in collaboration with creative software workshop Red Badger, we have just created a new smartphone app for the Haller Foundation. Haller has enabled thousands of impoverished individuals to improve their lives in urban slums in Kenya by creating mechanisms that allow for vegetation growth (for human and animal food), electric light and drinking water. However, the new app is designed to educate smallholding farmers and encourage them to lead self-sufficient lives through training and life skills programs.

The app is simple, highly intuitive and graphically rich to communicate with a largely illiterate audience. By clearly defining the problem faced by the Kenyan farmers and understanding the best way to the communicate with them, the app has the power to tackle real challenges and give hands on, relevant and visual solutions to millions of people in need.

With immediate and global reach, digital technology and social media presents a phenomenal opportunity for the dissemination of ideas and innovation. Think about it – your single mobile device can now do the tasks of a multitude of individual products, books and services. By putting this opportunity in the hands of the world’s population, we are giving people the power to change their lives and the world around them. However, this power can only be made real through new, intuitive and desirable design languages.

Originally published on PSFK

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