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The tech community is armed to the teeth with arsenals of data processing solutions, and yet suffers from a vacuum of direction as to where to apply it. The existence of this vacuum may not apparent to those who live within it, but becomes clearer after living far outside of it. Today, the world’s brightest engineers now solve vacuous problems in advertising and fashion to generate short-term returns for predatory venture capitalists. Their inability to see the big picture is reinforced by austere educational programs that present computer science and mathematics in a platonic form, divorced from historical context, philosophy, and the myriad imperfections of reality.

Our reality is vast, complex, and tragically imperfect, in which the most important and fundamental problems of humankind remain unsolved. We do not know nearly enough about most natural phenomena, including the basic mysteries of health, disease, life, and death. Our empathy for the human condition motivates us to seek unique projects where we can contribute our talents toward better understanding these mysteries and improving the livelihoods of the world’s forgotten communities. To study such problems, we must be willing to work with new circles of people and travel to all places, including the remote corners of the Earth.

“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”

―Joseph Stalin

As reported by the World Health Organization, 5.6 million children under the of age five died in the year 2016, an amortized rate of over 15,000 children every day, 82 percent of which reside in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. Despite this staggering statistic, there is limited research about how, when, where, and why these deaths occur, due in no small part to severe data scarcity throughout the developing world. We are very grateful for the opportunity to work on the Child Health and Mortality Prevention and Surveillance (CHAMPS) project, which aims to study this silent tragedy through the systematic surveillance of child deaths in villages throughout the world with the highest mortality prevalence. Our work is done in conjunction with the Western Kenya section of the Centers for Disease Control operating in Kisumu and Siaya Counties, where the under-5 mortality rate has been as high as over one out of five. Working together with our on-the-ground partners in human health, we have been constructing software to equip hospitals with the wherewithal to electronically collect clean data filtered through high levels of client-side and server-side validation, while also enjoying flexibility in the adjustment of workflows and questionnaires, robustness to adversarial internet conditions, and a technology stack built on open source. Through improved data collection and management, we hope our partners will be better able to infer the determinants of child death and design more precise interventions.

We sincerely wish for QED to serve a vehicle for calibrating new generations of engineering professionals, sensitizing them to problems of universal importance with hands-on experience, and helping youth realize the existence of interesting engineering careers off the beaten path, in pursuit of problems with the greatest potential impact to humankind.

Note: We are still in the process of writing more about our exciting work in this area. Please stay tuned!


Kenya Medical Research Institute