A Microsoft researcher has picked up a prestigious grant. Bill Thies, a researcher in the company's communications programs in the developing world was named as a MacArthur Foundation fellow for 2016. The annual foundation grant awards support to figures from various fields.
Also known as the “genius” awards, the MacArthur Foundation grants are widely respected. Thies has been rewarded for his work on 99DOTS. This Microsoft program gives underprivileged in India access to treatment for tuberculosis. The lost cost solution can be initiated through a free call. Medicine in special packaging is sent and doctors can track patient progress.
“This is not about making things 100 times faster, 100 times bigger, 100 times more futuristic,” Thies said in a video alongside the announcement. “This is about things 100 times simpler, 100 times cheaper, and 100 times more inclusive.”
$625,000 was awarded to a total of 22 recipients. The foundation praised Thies' work in helping to develop communication solutions:
“Thies combines technical expertise in several subfields of computer science with a deep understanding of the real-world constraints and needs of the communities in rural India he hopes to reach. He overcomes challenges such as stark financial constraints, limited access to internet services, and low levels of literacy by devising interfaces between basic mobile phones, which are relatively affordable and widely used, and modern networks and applications.”
The creation of 99DOTS was born of a need to improve medication delivery methods for tuberculosis. Researchers wanted to create a full treatment program to stop spread of the disease. A rapid delivery system and an ability to track patients was essential.
Patients are able to make a free call to a number that is given when the does is sent out. The number is only revealed when a dose is given from a customized package. This is a tracking system that allows doctors to monitor patients.
The process has already gone through a successful pilot program on 2,500 test subjects. The service is now being scaled up around India.