Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/12/2012

Kate Otto, Class of 2009
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, The World Bank

Since our 2009 Academy of Achievement journey in South Africa, roaming the savannah of Singita and exploring the rich history of Cape Town, two core passions in my life have converged in a way that continues to shape my career in public service: creative application of new technologies, and deep commitment to honoring human relationships.

On the relationship side, I spent 2009-2010 living in Indonesia on a Luce Scholarship, working with a drug rehabilitation and HIV/AIDS center run entirely by recovering addicts and people living with HIV.  Their humility and creative peer support infrastructure taught me many perspective-changing lessons about the importance of patience and deep connection with those we aim to serve.

Soon after, I began working with the World Bank as they began investing in information and communications technology (ICT) for development, specifically ICT for the improvement of health systems.  Supporting the eTransform Africa team, I continue to lead a randomized evaluation of a mobile phone-based data management tool that my team designed for rural health workers to better manage their workflow, see more patients, and save more lives.  My lessons from Indonesia were crucial in realizing that the design of the tech tool would make or break the intervention; even the “coolest” technology matters little (and can even backfire) if the design process has not been participatory and iterative with end-users and supervisors.

This led me to conduct a similar project with Mercy Corps, back in Indonesia, designing a mobile data collection tool for urban midwives. The two programs earned me a place in the recent eBook “Disruptive Women in Healthcare.”  I have also been working as research manager for a behavioral economist at Harvard Business School, assisting with her public health studies in Zambia. I am now preparing to lead a new mobile health initiative in Indonesia with the remarkable folks at Dimagi, and the inspiring organization I began my journey with, Rumah Cemara.

My travels and experiences at the intersection of technology and human relationships led me to launch a website called Everyday Ambassador — and to write a book of the same title — which has gained early support from some of my personal heroes: Dr. Paul Farmer, Irshad Manji, and Susan Davis.  In a June 2012, op-ed in The Christian Science Monitor, and in a January 2012 TEDx talk at the University of North Carolina, I summarized the main message of Everyday Ambassador: ensuring that the best technologies of our world bring us closer together, rather than drawing us farther apart.  I try to bring this issue to light as a contributor to the Huffington Post, and always welcome new ideas for stories.

I will be reaching out to members of the Academy of Achievement community over the next months of book writing, and I look forward to featuring their work and wisdom. Since first meeting members of this community almost three years ago, it has made my life more positive and fulfilling to be aware of, inspired by, and engaged in the work of my peers.

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