Technology at Davos; Telemedicine in the smartphone age

Leaders from around the globe are meeting this week in Davos, Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum. On the agenda this year: business, politics -- and technology.

This week, many of the world's most powerful people are in Davos, Switzerland for the 43rd annual meeting of The World Economic Forum.

For decades, German economist Klaus Schwab has been bringing CEOs and world leaders to this tiny town in the Alps. They go to dinners and parties and networking events … and also panel discussions about the state of the world economy. Which -- in today's world -- means talking tech.

Davos first timer biomedical engineer Jennifer Elisseeff says she’s looking forward to a presentation on massive open online courses -- the idea of educating a large number of people over a high speed internet connection.

But there are business opportunities for academics like Elisseeff as well. She says getting outside of the lab and travelling to events like Davos puts her in touch with people in other parts of the world. And that has changed the kind of work that she does.

“We've started a pilot program where students take their vacation and take their engineering skills abroad to address, for instance, agricultural challenges in east Africa.”

Elisseeff also does work in what's called "regenerative medicine" -- like helping combat veterans regrow lost tissue. At Davos, those kinds of ideas can find financial and political backing.


Another tech topic you’re going to be hearing a lot more of these days is telemedicine.

"Telemedicine is the ability to provide medical care over the internet to patients that are not where medical care providers are at,” explains Ed Price, Director of Research Partnerships and Development at Georgia Tech's Institute for People and Technology.

He's been working in this field since the 1980s. Price and others originally envisionined using telemedicine largely for people who were sick and stuck at home. In the smartphone age, that's expanded bigtime. In Nicaragua, students from Villanova University are helping physicians keep their eye on residents in remote areas, with just text messages and a bit of training.

"These health workers are typically farmers,” says Villanova senior Alejandro Avellana, “so the training definitely had a major effect on the result.”

These tech-savvy workers text information on patients' vitals to doctors in nearby cities for monitoring. And sometimes, they catch and prevent real emergencies.

"Since the inception of the project three women's lives have been saved, including -- well these were three pregnant women -- so their lives and their babies as well. 

About the author

Ben Johnson is the host of Marketplace Tech.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...