I have just gotten back from a great class session at Antioch and wanted to share some of the interesting stuff that we talked about tonight. Our course focuses on “Green IT” challenges, and tonight we talked about the IT challenges a multi-generational workforce presents. We had a conference call with Rob Salkowitz, author of Generation Blend which focuses on these challenges.
There were two stories shared tonight that I thought were worth passing on.
The first is an example of a challenge that technology cannot fix. The second is an example of a challenge that only technology could fix.
Identifying Potholes Only Gets You So Far
Technology and connectivity has progressed beyond the ability of the underlying infrastructure to support it. Our ability to connect at any time, anywhere, with anyone on the planet has made it possible for communication to be instant – but our ability to actually act on that communication and do something about it does not adhere to the same schedule. One of my classmates mentioned See Click Fix, a website that provides community members with a platform to point out infrastructure problems in their cities, such as potholes or cracked sidewalks. This is an interesting website concept, and it clearly could have some value.
The challenge is getting the city resources ramped up so that they can respond to the need. Cities are not quite ready to do that (at least not at the same speed as the identifying communication can occur). I believe that this example also highlights a challenge that many organizations face – they can identify the problem quickly, but they don’t have the resources to do anything about it.
Cell Phones, Counterfeit Medication, Genius
The speed with which we can communicate also opens up some doors which had previously been closed. One of these doors is the ability for people in developing nations to communicate. Rob talked about an organization in Ghana that has effectively harnessed the technology that exists in Ghana to solve a major challenge. The organization, mpedigree provides a solution to the staggering problem of counterfeit medicine. There is a huge market for counterfeit, watered down, completely fake, or otherwise shoddy medicine in the world today. This counterfeit medicine crises undermines the already shaky health care that people can receive in Ghana. About 80% of Ghana’s population has a cell phone.
The founders of mpedigree created a process that any citizen could use to verify the validity of their medication. They approached the drug companies, who have a major interest in eradicating the counterfeit drug market, and asked them to begin noting the lot numbers of their legitimate drugs, and adding a “scratch-off” identification number to every bottle of medicine. They created a database of these identification numbers, and set it up so that anyone could send a text message with the identification number of the medication and determine if it was counterfeit medicine or not. They asked the drug companies to pay the minimal fee for a text message. The drug companies happily obliged. The organization has since taken the model that was applied in Ghana and implemented it in other developing nations. This is an incredible example of the power that innovation and technology in providing solutions to serious challenges.
Does your organization do a better job identifying problems than it does allocating the necessary resources to fix the issue? Does your organization strive to use technology in an innovative way that provides a benefit to you and others?