Hilmi Quraishi: Improving Health for Millions with Mobile Phones

It began with the game of cricket and cell phones. Hilmi Quraishi recognized that together, cricket— the most popular sport in India—and cell phones, in the hands of 650 million Indians, could become a powerful health tool.

In 2005, this observation led him to develop “Freedom HIV/AIDS.” A set of games rooted in cricket that pass information about AIDS via cell phones to subscribers saw more than 10 million unique downloads within the first year.

Hilmi Quraishi

Ashoka Fellow since Jun 2008

This success grew out of Hilmi’s passion for software game development. After launching his first game in his former secondary school, the students’ overwhelming response led to distribution in many Delhi schools and inspired Hilmi to dedicate his life to social entrepreneurship through game development and information sharing.

The “Freedom HIV/AIDS” success similarly inspired him to continue tackling some of the biggest public health challenges by developing applications that inform people via their cell phones.

For example, he developed MIRA Channel, a mobile phone channel that delivers maternal and child health information, as well as connection to public health services. Initially available to 850,000 women, participating villages saw a 50 percent increase in baby deliveries in hospitals, as well as a 40 percent increase in immunization rates. The service is now available in several countries, including Rwanda, Senegal and Afghanistan.

The key to his success, as illustrated by MIRA Channel, is focusing on the connectivity lent by mobile phones. This puts practical, technology-linked tools and actionable, life-saving information in the hands of the most rural and marginalized, empowering all communities.

These impacted communities now cross countries and continents. Hilmi continues to apply his proven model of social innovation and technology to create additional programs inside and outside of India.

Since joining the Ashoka network, these include Freedom TB, which incorporates Hilmi’s proprietary methodology to empower patients with TB to become part of the solution design and control their treatment; Toys for Change, ethnic IoT (Internet of Things) toys to assist mothers and children in accessing immunizations; and Freedom Polio, one of the largest mHealth programs designed for rural health workers to track immunizations in the field.

Hilmi continues to innovate and create impact by converting community members from beneficiaries to active stakeholders to achieve his core mission that “No woman should die anymore while giving birth to a child, no child should be left without education, no youth should remain unskilled, no farmer should succumb with his produce, and above all no voice should be left unheard.”

“Today, their out-of-the-box solutions are changing the traditional top-down approach to public healthcare in India.” - The Hindu Business Line