Linking the mobile phone with a microscope for public benefit

July 24th, 2009

The latest “add on” for a mobile phone is not likely to appeal to the market of young affluent professionals who like the latest gadgets.   But in many much less affluent parts of the globe the mobile phone is reaching out as one of the technologies offering the potential to change lives.  For social conversations, for business transactions, remittances, and mobile banking the mobile phone is fast becoming a tool that connects people who live in remote rural locations in developing countries.

The needs of those people go beyond those uses named above, into areas such as health and education.   A paper published earlier this week in the open access journal PLoS ONE holds out the hope that via the combination of a microscope and mobile phone health services might reach into rural areas.  More about this can be read on the BBC Technology News site.

The research team say that: “We expect such a telemedicine system for global healthcare via mobile phone – offering inexpensive brightfield and fluorescence microscopy integrated with automated image analysis – to provide an important tool for disease diagnosis and screening, particularly in the developing world and rural areas where laboratory facilities are scarce but mobile phone infrastructure is extensive.” (Breslauer et al 2009).   This is a welcome opportunity for new technology to help poor people in rural areas but to enable the technology to be used effectively it should also be remembered that there will need to be capacity building for local communities.   The supply of the technology is a start so long as we also work to engage the potential users to gain their buy-in and ownership.   Now is the right time to do that and certainly it should not wait until the researchers have “perfected” the technology.


Breslauer DN, Maamari RN, Switz NA, Lam WA, Fletcher DA (2009) Mobile Phone Based Clinical Microscopy for Global Health Applications. PLoS ONE 4(7): e6320. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006320

One response to “Linking the mobile phone with a microscope for public benefit”

  1. RFID Reader : Says:

    i love mobile phones that can surf the net in lightning fast speed.*,

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