Viewpoint: Beware of the Pokemon
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
As the hugely popular augmented reality game app Pokemon Go excites techies and Luddites alike, it ought to be a reminder of where we are with digital health, and where we aren’t.
I was recently at a future-focused technology event in New York City where I spoke about how useful the instant messaging app WhatsApp was for sharing information and interacting with communities in West Africa during the Ebola crisis. WhatsApp is the most popular chat app in Africa, largely because it is easy to use and can offer a cheaper or free alternative to text messaging.
During the Ebola crisis in 2014-15, WhatsApp gave the BBC special dispensation to use it as a broadcast platform, lifting the limit for a broadcast group beyond its usual cap of 250 people. The BBC set up a subscriber-based Ebola service, posting images, text and audio content from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and UNICEF to its 20,000 subscribers, most of whom were in West Africa. At BBC Media Action, the BBC’s international development charity, we took this idea and made localized versions of the service and produced our own content.