Twelve years ago, while searching for my undergraduate project at the Bayero University, Kano, I came across a book entitled Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web written by Tim Berners-Lee, who led the invention of the world wide web (www). Tim Berners-Lee, in my opinion, is the unsung hero of the Internet age. He led the process that changed the way we conduct business. The invention of the World Wide Web has transformed how our family live, how our educational system operates. In fact, it even changed the way people think, and try to find solution to their problems, including those that border on the spiritual.
Let me tell you a story that happened around 2004. We were chatting with a friend studying at the University Liverpool. He went to the mosque to perform one of the obligatory prayers, and he found some youths relatively confused, and searching their laptops. After he got close to them, he realized they have made a mistake in their prayer, and would therefore need to make Sujud al-Sahwi (prostration of forgetfulness). Instead of asking a scholar, they quickly refer to Google to find out about the sujud and how to perform it. Our friend intervened and explained everything to the youth.
This is one of the ways the Internet has transformed our lives, and significant credit for that revolution should go to Tim Berners-Lee for coming up with the World Wide Web. Before coming to the subject of this discourse, I like to discuss the thought process and thirst for innovation which made Tim to come up with the World Wide Web. As he outlined in the book Weaving the Web, every day we wake up, go to the bathroom, take a shower, get dressed and then enter our car or ride a bike to go to work or other businesses, we are being driven by an automatic thought process. When we feel hungry, we simply get out of our desk and either go to a restaurant, or move straight to the kitchen, and when it is time to close from work, we do so automatically. This automatic process in our thought, which makes us accomplish so much in a day without somebody having to tell us to go to the toilet, or drive our car is the sort of instinctive process that Tim Berners-Lee wanted to transfer to the computer.
Perhaps if Tim Berners-Lee were to explain this process prior to the emergence of the World Wide Web, people would think he was crazy. But today, crazy thinking is a reality we are living with. Since the emergence of the Internet, so many innovative thinkers in the field of technology have emerged. Eric Schmidt, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg etc have founded Google, Apple and Facebook. Probably you will be reading this piece from one of these devices or platforms.
While Watching Aljazeera on Saturday, May 16, I saw some Indians working hard to join the league of 21st century innovators. They are working to create a smartphone application that can be used as a laboratory for urine test.
Speaking at the TED conference, (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design: it is a gathering of innovators and thinkers in the United States, who spread ideas on how they change their society), Myshkin Ingawale from India suggested his motivation for working to create this mobile phone application. Like Tim Berners-Lee before him, Ingawale believes that people do pee, and they also have cell phones, so why not bring the two together to address the challenges of lab testing, especially in rural areas. Writing about this innovation, Mchael V Copeland of the Wired Magazine stated that “what Ingawale has created is a seemingly simple app that analyzes chemical strips by first taking photos with your phone at predetermined times and comparing the results that appear on the pee-soaked strip to a color-coded map”.
Copeland added that “With the color comparisons as a guide, the app analyzes the results, and comes back in seconds with a breakdown of the levels of glucose, bilirubin, proteins, specific gravity, ketones, leukocytes, nitrites, urobilinogen and hematuria present in the urine. The parameters the app measures are especially helpful for those people managing diabetes, and kidney, bladder and liver problems, or ferreting out the presence of a urinary tract infection”.
In the Aljazeera report, a team of doctors and IT experts were seen gathered in a room working to make sure this app becomes a reality. As the report finished, I quickly remember that in Nigeria people love watching Indian movies, in fact we now have Kannywood. Here is another movie in technology and medical education. Nigerian doctors and IT specialists, over to you.