Summary of To Design Better Tech, Understand Context

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Biomedical engineering professor Tania Douglas explains why Africa has “equipment graveyards” for imported medical devices and how basic design principles could help prevent these graveyards. Engineering without context or empathy makes for poor solutions, she explains. getAbstract recommends her inspiring talk to all professionals tasked with innovation, design or engineering.

About the Speaker

Tania Douglas, PhD, is a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Capetown.



Africa is rife with imported, unusable medical equipment. Some of these devices can’t endure hot, humid climates. Others require unavailable technicians. Most of the equipment demands steady access to electricity. In Africa’s “equipment graveyards,” you might even find obstetric ultrasound machines. That’s because many rural midwives still use listening horns as fetal heart-rate monitors. Inventors Aaron Tushabe and Joshua Okello observed the horns while visiting a clinic. They noticed that midwives often couldn’t hear the heartbeat through the horns...

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