A Solar Powered Blanket Creates Cell Phone-Powered Health Care for Africans

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Image via Portable Light iTEACH Blanket Project Page

Sounds like a strange mix, but a blanket that sports solar power could help improve health care in Africa by allowing those people without electricity to charge cell phones, which are used to send and receive text messages with health information for people with HIV and Tuberculosis. It's called the Portable Light iTEACH Blanket, and it wants to save lives. Cell phones are facilitating some amazing movements in green activism, and Africa is one of the continents on which mobile technology can do an incredible amount of good. The technology is simple, the cell phones can be easy to access...but the problem is keeping them charged.

In an effort to address this problem so that more people have access to health care information via cell phones, the iTEACH blanket project wants to reach the world's poorest people with accessible technology that gives them access to mobiles, lighting at night, a boost to the local economy via local manufacturing methods, and more. It aims to be a well-rounded solution that will save lives and prevent illness.

From the project overview: "iTEACH and the Portable Light Project have collaborated to develop a comprehensive home treatment program. The proposed pilot project will bring together health care information dissemination via text-messages, clean solar energy with a renewable home lighting and cell phone charging system and a comprehensive home-based MDR TB treatment training program in KwaZulu-Natal.

"Women in local sewing clubs integrate flexible solar kits into a locally produced African cloth fastened to an emergency blanket, making a detachable solar textile lantern.

"By day the patient uses the blanket to stay warm while exposed to the outdoors. Sunlight charges the unit in three hours, creating 6 watt-hours of energy stored in a rechargeable battery. At night, Portable Light powers a cell phone and provides ten hours of bright white light to facilitate the night time home care treatment established by the iTEACH Program.

"The next day, the Portable Light blanket is recharged by the patient, who helps to power his or her own treatment, while providing renewable energy and light for family members."

The project is looking for microfinancing, and help with devising a business plan to get the iTEACH blanket out to the estimated 14 million people who need it.