Sometimes it’s hard to tell from the headlines, but not all news is bad news. This is a roundup of good news, a weekly roundup of positive stories to help you feel better about the state of the world.
This week we cover a woman bringing computers to children in remote African communities; progress in the transport of donated hearts; genetically engineered mosquitoes that wipe out dengue fever in parts of Brazil; South Korea’s new ‘nose print’ pet protection program; and an Indian village practicing ‘digital fasting’.
Click the video above for a full recap, or keep reading to learn more about this week’s positive headlines:
- A woman brings computers to children in remote African communities
Nelly Cheboi is on a mission to ensure that children in rural Kenya do not miss out on basic IT education.
She founded Techlit Africa, an NGO that collects old laptops from institutions and companies, refurbishes them and brings them to schools in remote communities so children can learn computer skills.
Most of the students participating in the project “wouldn’t use a computer because we’re targeting the most remote parts of Africa,” she says.
“Right now we have students who don’t even speak Swahili [the most widely used language across East Africa], they still know how to use a computer and make websites, and the coolest thing is that they can still do it in their own village. They don’t have to go to Nairobi to do it, they don’t have to go to America to do it.”
Cheboi was inspired to start Techlit Africa by his own story. She had never touched a laptop until she received a scholarship to study in the United States and wanted it to be different for students in her village.
Sammy Ruto, a student at Zawadi Yetu Academy says he will build his own website using HTML and CSS thanks to the “visual studio code” he learned to use.
“They taught me about OpenShot and NASA to build my own rocket when I grow up. So I hope this course will help me to be an IT professional in the future,” he said.
Elysee Dusabinema, a professor at the same academy, says computer skills will help children learn how to “brand themselves online and how they can do business online, because that’s where the world is going.”
Techlit Africa currently works in 13 schools across Kenya, teaching computer skills to around 5,000 children between the ages of four and 12.
2. Breakthrough in the transport of donated hearts
Until recently, post-circulatory death (DCD) donation transplants (those that take place after the patient’s heart stops beating) were very rare, and most hearts were transplanted after brain death.
According to Dr Yashutosh Joshi, a cardiothoracic registrar at St Vincent’s Hospital in Australia, the problem with DCDs is that “you don’t know what damage has happened to the heart while it’s stopped.”
But that’s all changed thanks to a new machine that allows DCD hearts to be worn while they’re still beating, instead of being packed in ice.
This allows doctors to assess whether it is really viable for transplant.
“That’s essentially what we’ve implemented since 2014, and it’s made a huge difference in our transplant program, because we’ve been able to increase the number of heart transplants we’ve been able to do,” Dr. Joshi said.
Instead of placing the heart in a portable ice box for transport, doctors use a new ‘Heart in a Box’ machine that circulates blood through the heart.
“This warm, oxygen-enriched blood makes it possible to resuscitate the heart. It allows the heart to beat and then we can visually assess it, we can do some blood tests on it, and then while it’s on that machine, we can kind of see if it’s usable or not,” he said.
dr. Carmine Gentile, a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Technology Sydney, believes the heart in a box is a “brilliant idea” and will increase the number of transplantable hearts in Australia and the world.
“This leads to improved patient outcomes as well as preventing significant complications associated with the transplant itself.”
3. Genetically modified mosquitoes are destroying dengue fever in parts of Brazil
Mosquitoes kill more people than any other creature in the world and are responsible for about 17 percent of global deaths from infectious diseases.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the main vector of dengue, chikungunya, Zika and yellow fever viruses in the world.
The good news is that a groundbreaking large-scale pilot introducing the new Friendly™ mosquitoes has achieved 96 percent suppression of the dengue-spreading mosquito population in urban communities in Brazil.
What exactly are Friendly™ mosquitoes?
They are genetically engineered, non-biting male Aedes aegypti that mate with wild females and pass on a lethal gene that prevents the female offspring from reaching adulthood.
If you get rid of the female mosquitoes, “obviously you will also stop the production of all the mosquitoes because you need them to be able to lay eggs. And so, when we did it in Brazil,” Dr. Nathan Rose, head of the malaria program at Oxitec, told Euronews.
Oxitec is the company behind the design and implementation of the Friendly™ mosquito initiative and a leading developer of biological pest control solutions, founded at the University of Oxford in 2022.
What does a world without mosquitoes look like? We asked Dr. Rose.
“The important thing here is that we will not have a world without mosquitoes. This is one type of mosquito out of about three and a half thousand different types of mosquitoes.”
Another thing about the mosquitoes that spread dengue that Oxitec is targeting in Brazil is that they are invasive species. “It originally comes from Central Africa, it shouldn’t be in Brazil at all. So it’s not a critical part of the ecosystem there,” says Dr. Rose.
“Other ways of controlling mosquitoes include spraying chemicals, and those will obviously hit not only the species, but a lot of other things in the environment that are really beneficial. So we think this is a really targeted way to get rid of this mosquito that causes significant problems for human health.”
Oxitec says its technology is the first genetically modified pest control product to be purchased by governments, households, businesses and communities. It works by simply adding water to mosquito eggs, which then hatch within a few days.
4. South Korea’s New Pet Protection Scheme Using ‘Nose Prints’
Thanks to new biometric recognition technology developed by a South Korean company, dogs can now be identified by their nose print.
With the new technology, which works by simply scanning a dog’s nose with a mobile phone camera, people who find lost dogs can instantly locate their owners through an app called Anipuppy.
The Seoul-based company says that each dog’s nose is as unique as a human fingerprint and that the scans are 99.9 percent accurate.
“It’s a 3D biometric algorithm based on artificial intelligence and deep learning that we put into smartphones so you can take pictures of nose patterns and use them to identify each animal,” explains Sujin Choi, director of iSciLab Corporation.
Currently, pet registration with a microchip or external ID is mandatory in South Korea and many places in Europe, but only 38 percent of pet dogs in South Korea are registered.
Chae Il Taek, head of the Korea Animal Welfare Association’s policy team, says the traditional problem with the nation’s dog registration system is that “it was not possible to identify who the original keeper of the animal was if the ID was removed arbitrarily or intentionally.”
Nasal recognition technology is also a viable option for some dog owners who are concerned about “potential health problems caused by microchip implantation.”
Nose identification is not intrusive and is much faster to use than inserting a chip, the company says.
Choi says they recently agreed to roll out the technology nationally. “We will soon begin to set up a regulatory sandbox approved by the Korean government, which will happen by 2024, and by then we hope that the government will use biometric technology, nose ID, as a means of identifying and registering dogs.”
The company says that in the future it will be possible to track animals such as cats, cows and deer with the same technology.
iSciLab’s biometric recognition technology is currently patented in South Korea, the United States, Europe, Canada and Japan.
Read the full story by Euronews’ Roselyne Min.
5. An Indian village practicing ‘digital fasting’
Several studies have shown that we pick up our phones even when we don’t want to. Others have told us that excessive use of technology can make us feel lonely and miss out on real-life interactions.
A village of about 3,000 people in India actively approached the problem of modern addictions: all residents agreed to fast for several hours digitally every day.
A siren is placed above the village temple and goes off every evening at 7 pm in Vadgaon, Sangli district, telling all residents to switch off their TV sets and mobile phones.
The siren sounds again at 20.30 to announce the end of detoxification.
Vijay Mohite, president of the village council, told BBC Hindi that they decided to act because they noticed that children and adults were spending too much time on their devices and not talking to each other, especially after the coronavirus pandemic.
dr. Michael Rich, founder of the Digital Wellness Lab and Clinic for Interactive Media and Internet Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital, told Euronews that we can all learn from the Vadgaon digital detox.
“I think it’s a wonderful experiment, and they can lead the world in learning everything that we could benefit from reducing our hyperstimulation,” he says, adding that we’ve gotten into the bad habit of looking at our phones whenever we have a spare moment “because we’re so bored.” .”
“I think we have to embrace and cherish boredom because boredom is where we think the new boredom is, where we are creative and imaginative.”
dr. Rich says that boredom is fundamental not only because it opens up a quiet space to create new thoughts, “but because it’s a little bit uncomfortable, which motivates us to think new things, to try things, to put things together in different ways in our heads, unlike from jumping online and following the crowd to whatever it’s going for at the moment.”
However, “it is both unrealistic and impractical to cut out digital technology entirely for any period of time,” says Dr. Rich, who supports mindful technology use. “This one [technology] is the way we communicate, the way we learn, work, connect with each other today. However, it’s too easy to just go in by default.”
“I think so [Vadgaon] has a very healthy approach to understanding that although this plays an important role in our lives, it is not the most important thing. We’re in a world full of distractions and we need to manage those distractions and actually focus on the things that matter to us.”
A common strategy that Dr. Rich recommends to her patients at the Interactive Media and Internet Disorders Clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital is to constantly remind themselves that we have a limited amount of time each day and that when we are on our digital devices, we should use that time “intentionally and with a plan , instead of it just being a default behavior that distracts us.”
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