NMPi’s Big Debate: How MSF Uses Tech and Comms

Javid Abdelmoneim is the UK President of Doctors Without Borders and featured as our keynote speaker.

He is an A&E doctor, who still works for the NHS when in the UK, but he also volunteers in crisis areas across the globe.

Communication is a huge part of what MSF do, with a founding principle of temoignage: that they will bear witness. In situations where the populations they are helping cannot speak up or do not have the agency to do so, MSF and its doctors will do so on their behalf. This in part comes from more traditional avenues such as press releases, but in recent years they have also moved into less formal awareness campaigns on social media.

Back in the summer of 2016, while on a rescue vessel in the Mediterranean, Javid recorded the charity’s first Instagram story as well as a series of Snapchat videos. Last year, he hosted a Facebook Live campaign from Moscow with the World Health Organisation. Tweets are sent out in all languages, and there are different accounts for different areas of work. One thing is for certain: MSF knows how to get the word out there.

In general, though, smartphones have changed the way MSF work. In times before smartphones, it could often be very difficult to warn hospitals that trauma patients were coming in from the field because of a lack of phone signal. Nowadays, that problem is solved by using WhatsApp and the WiFi network. It is a huge development in the way that doctors in the field are able to communicate with the hospitals. Looking to the future, portable WiFi is on the wishlist for Javid.

Smartphones have also revolutionised the way they work medically. MSF has developed a tool which is added to a phone’s camera that allows them to take microscopic photography, aiding in the diagnostic process. Similar tools allow doctors to get a look at the back of the eye to check for cataracts or whether malaria is attacking the brain.

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