WHO IS DR. JOEL SELANIKIO?
Dr. Joel Selanikio is an award-winning physician, innovator and public speaker who leads the efforts of Magpi to develop and promote new technologies and business models for health and international development. This includes the award-winning Magpi mobile data collection and messaging software – the most widely scaled mobile technology ever created for international development, with more than 32,000 users in more than 170 countries.
Joel is a frequent keynote speaker and consultant in the fields of social entrepreneurship, innovation, public health, healthcare, and the use of technology for development and emergency and disaster response. He has consulted or spoken on these topics at Davos, TEDx, SciFoo, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Google, DARPA, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Royal Society of Medicine, Fox News, and many other venues. He is a judge for the GSMA Global Mobile Awards and for the Classy Awards for Social Impact, and is a winner of both the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability and the Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Award.
Joel is a practicing pediatrician, as well as a former Wall Street computer consultant, and former CDC epidemiologist. In his former role as an officer of the Public Health Service, Dr. Selanikio served as Chief of Operations for the Health and Human Services Secretary’s Emergency Command Center in the aftermath of 9/11. In 2005, he was given the Haverford Award for Humanitarian Service for his work in treating tsunami victims in Aceh, Indonesia.
You can connect with Dr. Selanikio here:
IN TOR 046 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- Magpi, the NGO-then-startup looking to eradicate paper forms from international development.
- The many lives of Joel- technologist, physician and entrepreneur, and his career as a function of how to offer better services faster and cheaper while staying close to the patient.
- The many lessons Joel thinks international development could take from Silicon Valley, including more focus on the user, and better use of resources and people.
- Joel’s sources of wisdom and inspiration, and what he believes is the greatest game changer in international development in his lifetime.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- World Bank
- United Nations Foundations
- The Knight Foundation
- Jeff Bezos, Amazon
- H. Christensen at Harvard University
- Ken Banks, FrontlineSMS
- Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- Medical forms software
- Mobile technology
- Health IT
- Silicon Valley
- Freemium business model
- Scalability in international development
- Washington, DC
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
“It replaces paper forms.” Forms are the way medical information is collected.
Hardware is available now, in the whole world, and it’s connected. “We don’t have to buy and ship Palm Pilots anymore.“
“It is not painful to move from paper-based management.” People are ready to do grunt work better, faster.
The approach is getting faster and cheaper.
Over the years, the realization of the necessity of Magpi grew, Joel was at CDC. CDC does not leave room for health innovation. He saw PDAs as a tool that could help him do his work of collecting and then typing into computer paper forms on the ground.
Magpi started through grant money from the World Bank, United Nations Foundations, Worldfund, the Knight Foundation. Doing tech in Africa earned him conference recognition. He was a novelty. He learned about sustainability, the VC world. Today it works with a freemium model and it is profitable.
Rich world, development world
“Everything is bliss” in personal tech, but it is not the same history for software in organizations in aid and health institutions.
Fantasy football software is much more sophisticated than a health institution bundle.
Involving people in IT. “Security is not the biggest threat. It’s understanding.“
Why do bundles for health institutions need user training?
Why can’t we expect big things?
A large opportunity is extending key functionality into lower cost devices.
The research in development rewards launching “pilot after pilot after pilot” studies, which are costly and provide no sector-wide learning.
“You don’t want your customers not being the actual users.” Donors were not in the position to help make the software better.
Organizations are not interested in scaling if that means not getting paid for consulting, which does not scale, “even if it helps the world better.“
“Social and for profit may not be a good or important distinction to make.“
Capitalism, not social enterprise, brought us the mobile phone, “the most beneficial technology for poor populations and countries in our lifetimes.“
Perhaps international development should work better if applied competitiveness benchmarks. “No company in which 40% of their data is filled out and stored in paper forms would survive the competition.” But international development organizations do.
His approach to service is modeled after Jeff Bezos at Amazon. “If every user had to talk to a representative, and if we had to train an army of them, we would not exist.” People should get exactly what they want with as less ‘human interference’ as possible.
Magpi is his largest commitment, but he also teaches and does about 4 hours of medical practice a week. Lots of business development and web conferences.
Working through grants. A new system included logic for form navigation. People were confused. “I dreaded to wake up and check 10 angry complaints about my life’s work.“
It is hard, emotionally and psychologically, to take every disappointed user personally. But just having leaving the grant model, gone were the days of threat-free existence.
It was a question of the business model.
Technology people, Silicon Valley. Some of it may be trivial, but some are still making great impact.
- Christensen at Harvard, Innovator’s Dilemma. “It gave us a road map.“
FrontlineSMS Ken Banks, Reluctant Innovator. “A great sounding board.“
“You either have the burning sensation of ‘I have to do it’, or you don’t.“
“I’m wary to tell others to quit their security. But nothing I say would deter the kind of people who are just going to do it.“
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