Each year MIT’s Solve program connects people who have innovative solutions to global problems in areas including health, environment, and economic development, to consultants from philanthropic organizations, venture capital firms, and corporations to help them realize their goals. Participants come from all over the world, often drawing on experiences in their own communities to come up with technological solutions that will improve the lives of people in other countries, as well as in their own communities.
The program announces new problem statements for participants to solve each year. Challenges are determined by a community of academics, industry leaders, nonprofit organizations, and others. This year’s challenges are:
“We believe that novel solutions can be found anywhere in the world,” said Pooja Wagh, the community director of Solve’s Health pillar. Wagh works with health-focused Solvers, advisors, and members to help ensure their projects have the greatest global impact possible. “We’re matchmakers between innovators and organizations that can support them to start and scale,” she explained.
Solve held its first event in 2015, as part of MIT’s commitment to open technology innovation. In the words of MIT President Rafael Reif, “we will do more than talk about the greatest problems facing our world. We will set the course to solve them.”
The event connects innovators with leaders in technology, philanthropy, business, and policy so they may draw from their expertise. One of this year’s most notable participants, world famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma, will award mentorship prizes to up to three Solvers whose solutions use arts and culture to improve lives. Additionally, two of Solve’s sponsors, the Atlassian Foundation International and Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, will give up to $2 million in combined prizes to selected Solvers.
Last year computer scientist Shailesh Prithani, a Solver from Mumbai, started a project called Doxper. It’s a smart pen designed to help healthcare providers in rural, developing areas gather and communicate information as efficiently as possible, while also helping doctors transition to computer-based systems.
Prithani saw the difficulty doctors in rural India faced as they struggled to keep reliable records for a growing number of patients, while simultaneously trying to adapt to new, computer-based information systems. Prithani sought a solution to help doctors overcome both problems.
Doctors use the Doxper pen on special prescription paper with a very fine grid, and an infrared camera in the pen digitally records everything the doctors write. That information can then be uploaded to a computer via bluetooth, which provides healthcare providers with easy access to patient information.
Another successful Solve project is the dietary supplement Lucky Iron Fish, a fish-shaped block of iron (or leaf, for vegetarians) that people at risk for iron deficiency can throw into a pot or pan while cooking, which enriches their food with the daily needed amount of iron.
Applications may be submitted to https://solve.mit.edu/. The submission deadline is August 1, 2017.
Bryce Fricklas is a journalist from Boulder, Colorado. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal (2013 – 2015) and Guinea (2016), where he focused on community health. His interests include culture, music, nature conservancy, and public health. He is an MA candidate in international relations and international communication at Boston University.
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