Matt Berg, Millennium Villages -- A Time 100 Most Influential Person

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Apr 29, 2010

We are pleased and delighted to congratulate Matt Berg, Tech Lead for the Millennium Villages Project.  Matt was chosen by Time Magazine to be one of the 100 most influential people this year. 

Matt is a director at the Earth Institute at Columbia University responsible for the design and implementation of technology for the Millennium Villages Project, a project working with communities in 10 sub-Saharan Africa countries to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development goals. 

Matt Berg is an unassuming man. You would never know that he is a key leader in the work to improve health care for hundreds of thousands of people in Africa using the most ubiquitous communication device in modern history – the mobile phone.

With more than 4.5 billion phones globally, the use of mobile phones to improve lives has often been referred to as a “mobile revolution.” At the center of this revolution is Matt Berg.

Berg, born in a small village in Cameroon, grew up in Senegal and is now running the technology for ChildCount+. He one of the premiere innovators in how 160-character text messages – or SMS on a mobile phone -- serve vulnerable children in Africa.

ChildCount+ uses SMS to monitor women and children’s health in Kenya. Local health workers send in SMS reports for each child’s malnutrition, malaria and diarrhea status. This allows for close monitoring of the health of the community, better immunization campaigns, and fast interventions, when needed. 

ChildCount+ has been in existence for only nine months but health workers have already recorded over 20,000 nutrition screenings, reported over 500 cases of malnutrition, and more than 2,000 incidents of malaria.  Berg and his colleagues at the Earth Institute are now scaling up ChildCount+ to monitor over 100,000 pregnant mothers and children under five.

While there are similar programs elsewhere, Berg has made it his personal mission to scale up ChildCount+ with robust technology, solid evaluations, and an incredible willingness to share lessons learned with other projects around the world – critical in an emerging field.

The use of technology in Africa for social development has been Berg’s passion all of his life.  Unlike many people in international development and aid work, however, Berg is also particularly keen on developing the tech talents of local programmers in Africa.

He helped establish the Rural Technology Lab in Mali, for example, with daily intensive programmer training for local students. Mali did not have a single advanced programming class at the national university, so working to develop the first generation of programmers in Mali has been extremely exciting for Berg.

With his trademark understatement, Berg says, “I think I am just lucky to work at this special time when the new field of using mobile phones for improving people’s lives has begun to realize its potential. I am fortunate to be able to help change the way we can address (changed from solve) some key development challenges. It's an exciting time.”

We think Berg is more than lucky to be at the right place at the right time. He is an innovator and true pioneer, deeply committed to using technology intelligently and passionately to help people around the world lead safe, healthy, and dignified lives. 

We congatulate him and the team at ChildCount and this entire community on whose shoulders he stands.

Tagged With:

millenium village could benefit from mobilediagnosis


I think  Millenium Village a great idea, and people that   are involved have to be an example for all

I'm livia bellina, and I 'm available to  work and teach mobilediagnosis to healthworkers involved in the millenium Village projects

to improve lowresources health workers and rural communities

I'm (age 56) medical doctor, specialized in General Pathology
Worked in Italy for the National Health Service, from 1987 until now.                                                                 

In April 2008,  working as a pathologist on the Italian Island of Lampedusa, I found myself in the urgent need to confirm a diagnosis of malaria from a blood sample of an African immigrant. With no other means at hand, I  took a picture of the microscopic field using the camera incorporated in mobile-phone, without additional devices, and sent it via MMS for tele-diagnostic purposes to a reference center. …. The described method has been filed  for patent  in April 2008, with the sole purpose to protect the idea from commercialization and consent its free use and dissemination (EPO application  number  09005054.3 2002  - 2008 April).

Through that experience I was motivated to deepen my knowledge about tropical  diseases, poverty diseases, global health and international development cooperation.                                                                 

Meeting Eduardo Missoni at  a meeting of the Italian Society for Migration Medicine(SIMM) (Trapani,  February 2009)  and  listening to his words about Global Health and Human Rights deeply changed  my life... (I have been  always fighting alone in Sicily for the right to health care and medical dignity).

I asked him to collaborate and soon after we met at the Bocconi University, in Milano, where he teaches. In June 2009 our work about low cost diagnostic  image transmission (Bellina and Missoni) was published in Diagnostic Pathology (an Open Access Journal)  Bellina, L., Missoni, E., Mobile cell-phones (M-phones) in telemicroscopy: increasing connectivity of isolated laboratories, Diagnostic Pathology, 2009, 4: 19  With Prof. Missoni, we advocate the use of this image transmission method and, where needed,  I make myself available to teach the method in practice.

We believe  that access to  health and access to care is a fundamental human right and medical technology must serve and be fit for purpose. Unfortunately health is a right which is still neglected to the majority of humanity.                                                                                                                                                                   

I had previously entered in touch with Nobel Laureate Professor Mohammad Yunus, and had offered also to him to help in introducing the “mobilediagnosis” method  (i.e. the use of cellular phone for tele-diagnosis and support)  in rural communities in Bangladesh. I met Prof. Yunus in Milano (Februray 2010) and he invited me to go to  Bangladesh and contribute to the improvement of Grameen Kalyan rural health centers and train local healthworkers.

Having accepted the invitation I volunteered three months in Bangladesh (April-July 2010) teaching and applying mobilediagnosis, linking centers in rural areas of Bangladesh and the headquarters in Dhaka. In Bangladesh I lived in rural centers (first in Tangail, in the extreme North of Bangladesh, and later in Comilla district, in the East of the country ).  For several weeks, I taught and worked with my students all day long,  from early morning to sunset .  In Grameen  Foundation's health centers, I   practically organized a   “school “  of lowcost  telepathology and basic telemedicine, based only  on the local minimal equipment  and available personal cellphones. 16  lab technicians of 16 different rural health center where involved. I taught the use of the microscope; theory and practice of laboratory techniques and basic parasitology, urine analysis, hematology  and stool  sample examination, as well as capturing and sending images from microscopical fields,  and differential diagnosis and logic clinic.

I also taught  to  6 medical doctors (about logic clinic, differential diagnosis, primary health care and to transmission of ultrasound images with the mobile-phone) from 6 different health centers. 

In the second phase of my permanence  in Bangladesh, I was based in Dhaka at the central Grameen office and supported the distance diagnosis for images sent by the lab-technicians I had trained. Confirming the validity of the method. My work  is summarized in two reports and a tutorial booklet.

The experience developed using the mobilediagnosis method is summarized in a paper entitled “Increasing connectivity of isolated health workers in poor countries using locally available technology” co-authored with prof. Missoni, that has been presented  at the coming 41st Union World Conference on Lung Health -Berlin, Germany, from 11 to 15 November 2010.

Untill now, I’m are the only one in the world to performe this methos to take and send diagnostic images without any device, and this methods has been adopted in Bangladesh, Grameen (Yunus Foundation) as routine

To promote mobilediagnosis, with Eduardo Missoni, we have been developping since 2009 .

Our aim is to develop it into an interactive consultation site, to provide free support to low skill - low resources  and isolated healthworkers  (lab  technicians, pathologists, clinicians) working in low resources countries or  isolated and rural areas, offering the   possibility to receive diagnostic confirmation from more skilled colleagues.                                                                          

 I  would like  to dedicate the rest of my  life working  for poor people, as medical pathologist and as teacher, and to  promote    mobilediagnosis to low resources settings and to the  poorest  communities; to give my little contribution to bridge the  health and technological divide,  and to put the global health care network at the service of the poorest and neglected  community. 

Thanks for your attention                                                                                                                               

Livia Bellina 

mobile:    +39 3389112818 /  +39 3926180630                                                                                                                                            skype id:   liviamarcellaclaudia                                                                                                                            

e-mail address:  and 

Palermo  2011, February 



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