[From FastCompany by Ariel Schwartz]

Slowly but surely, cell phones are making it possible to offer once-expensive and inaccessible technologies for minimal cost to the developing world. The winners of Vodafone’s Wireless Innovation Project Competition have taken the first steps, offering medical screening and business operations management tools to anyone with wireless capabilities.

MobileOCT The $300,000 first-place winner of the competition is MobileOCT, an early-stage startup that has developed tools to turn a digital camera (including a smartphone) into an accurate cervical cancer detection device.

In the U.S. and other countries with comprehensive health care systems, women typically get yearly screenings for cervical cancer with a pap smear. If the pap smear is positive, a gynecologist observes the cervix through a device called a colposcope, and often takes a biopsy as well.

Cervical cancer is easy to detect and extremely slow-moving, so it’s considered to be a preventable disease. But video colposcopes cost between $10,000 and $14,000 (used, they’re still $3,000). In the developing world, community health workers often instead examine the cervix using a flashlight, and out of an abundance of caution, overtreat with cryotherapy (which is relatively harmless). “They’re missing early-stage cases and overtreating 5 out of 6 times,” explains Ariel Beery, the CEO of MobileOCT.

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