Mobile app makes scientific information accessible in developing nations

By Allison McIlvain

SAWBO is a University-based program that creates educational videos. These videos cover a wide range of topics with the intent of helping the global community. As the SAWBO website explains, “all SAWBO animations are made freely available to anyone wishing to use them for educational purposes.”

Bluetooth technology enables anyone with an Android device to download the app, which is called Deployer, and then access, watch and share SAWBO videos at no cost. Videos can be downloaded when there is Internet access and saved in a library to be viewed at the user’s leisure.

The app itself is easy to navigate, through the use of filters and categorization. Users can search for videos in specific languages, topics or countries. The app features were created with the help of Tarek Abdelzaher, a professor of computer science at the University, and Shaohan Hu, graduate student in Engineering.

Currently, SAWBO videos cover over 50 topics, ranging from health and disease prevention to agriculture and harvesting. The videos are made to be understandable to people of different cultures and levels of knowledge, as they implement usage of different dialects and levels of vocabulary.

The Deployer is currently only available on Android devices because Androids are the most common in developing nations. However, a version of the app that will allow SAWBO videos to be downloaded and shared on some Apple products is expected to be released in the near future.

Barry Pittendrigh is co-director and co-founder of SAWBO and a professor of entomology at the University. He said he believes one of the best features of the app is that someone traveling or working in a developing nation can “literally carry around all of these materials on their phones with them wherever they’re going.”

Additionally, according to Pittendrigh, a special feature of the Deployer is that “the app can reproduce itself.” This means that the videos can be shared between users.

“With the push of a button, it’ll transfer over to the other person’s phone, and they can start accessing their library of materials,” he said.

Julia Bello-Bravo, co-director and co-founder of SAWBO, explained that the app is intended to share the knowledge of experts with people working in the field. Bello-Bravo is also an assistant director at the Center for African Studies and recently presented the Deployer app in Guatemala City.

The group is currently working on promoting the app and extending its reach.

“Our next real goal is to get information out to people that this is available and train them on how to use the app and how to share the app,” Pittendrigh said.

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