1 Year On Blog Series – Pete Kotvis

After graduating from University with a degree in Psychology/Neuroscience, I quickly came to realize that I needed to leave academia and get my hands dirty. I wanted to break away from the traditional career path and meet people who challenge my ideas and push me to create positive change.

pete sitting

During Balloon Kenya, I was paired with five groups and had six weeks to come up with business ideas, test assumptions, and develop business plans. After learning about the problems in the community, I utilized IDEO’s design thinking model to analyse potential solutions through both divergent and convergent thinking. After developing business ideas, we went into the community and tested the viability of the given product. After gaining insights through market research, we developed financial projections and business models using Alexander Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas framework.

While living in Kenya, I was fascinated and inspired by the mobile phone money transfer service MPESA. With just a phone number and an ID, people are able to make small loans, deposit, withdraw and transfer funds via text messaging. This is a practical market-based solution that meets the demand of the consumer. The mobile banking service has revolutionized trade by stimulating small business in Kenya and Tanzania.

My next step was to explore the benefits of ubiquitous cell phone use, and what better place to test these ideas than India – a country with 1.2 billion people and 900 million cellphones. Mobile phones present a platform for distribution of information, but there is a lack of relevant, accurate, high quality health information in India. I now work for mDhil – a company that has begun to fill this gap by creating original health videos in local Indian languages. Our videos educate citizens on men’s and women’s health, family planning, exercise, nutrition, seasonal ailments and chronic conditions. These videos are free and accessible through our YouTube channel. Customers are only charged for mobile data use. Watching videos cost the user as little as a few rupees a day.

After meeting and working with local healthcare leaders, I realized that many NGOs are using tablets and mobile devices for health education yet lack quality content.  As a result, I am currently developing trial studies with a variety of organizations to assess the effectiveness of mDhil’s health videos across urban slums in Bangalore.  I have experienced first-hand the benefits technology brings to health care education, and have grown passionate about learning how to leverage communication technology. We hope to gain insights from this trial study and expand our reach to people living without 3G connectivity.

 Written by Pete Kotvis, Balloon Alumni