Most of us take Wikipedia for granted. It is at best a quick reference and research location for most of us. But with over 2,00,000 medical articles in multiple languages it is also a repository of life-saving healthcare information for thousands of doctors and nurses across the world. But then we know that where this information is needed the most, access to the Internet is not always that easy. In India alone, there are still over 800 million people who do not have access to the Internet.
This is where The Internet-in-a-Box (IIAB), a complete single-board computer with an in-built Wi-Fi hotspot that allows for easy distribution of information, could make a huge difference. The size of a cellphone battery and with a price of just Rs 1,999, this box can connect up to 32 users to medical content, which is otherwise not available in that area.
The South Asia version of the box contains the full Wikipedia in 23 Indian languages, the Global Emergency Medicine Wiki, Wikipedia Medical Encyclopaedia in English and Farsi, over 1,000 HealthPhone Healthcare and Nutrition videos across 22 Indian languages, 47 HealthPhone Nutrition mobile apps across 18 languages and Children for Health’s ‘100 Health Messages’ in five languages.
“Almost 4 billion people do not have access to the Internet. So we started thinking how we could get all this great information to people who are offline,” explains Dr James Heilman, the man behind the IIAB. Heilman, who has edited more than 10,000 Wikipedia medical articles and sits on the Board of Directors of the Wikimedia Foundation.
He says that offline Wikipedia apps on health were downloaded the most in India. “The feedback was very encouraging and we wanted to see how to take it one step further,” he explains on the genesis of the idea, which he launched as a solution for these users in October 2017.
The box weighs 25 grams and has a slot for an SD card. “You can order an updated SD card to get new information or download an updated version of the Internet archives into the card,” says Heilman over a video call. The price is just the cost of the hardware, he says, adding that the content is generated by volunteers. “One of my hopes is that other people start making these devices in places like India,” adds Heilman.
Heilman thinks there are a few uses cases for this device. For instance, institutions like the Rotary Club could roll out these devices, there could also be government agencies who would want to send it out to rural areas to aid health centres. “We are also building modules to go on this devices for specific regions of the world. We are interested in doing the same thing in India, by customising content for certain areas,” he says.
Earlier this month, the Wiki Project Med Foundation, Internet-in-a-Box and HealthPhone announced an offline distribution system to take the box to locations like India. The team has just released a thinner version and are developing ones with larger cards so that more information can be packed in.