Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center

Development of a Birth Record Communicator

Independent University, Bangladesh

Organization is located in Dhaka, but project will take place in Manikganj, a rural site 50 km from Dhaka.


Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB) is a small private university located in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Founded in 1993, IUB currently has around 4000 students studying in 6 schools at undergraduate and graduate levels. The School of Engineering and Computer Science (SECS) at IUB has done some pioneering work on the modeling of mobile phone based community survey and single hop sensor networks using GSM networks. Twice a year, IUB sends out students to 6 field sites, spread out all over Bangladesh. This unique Live in Field Experience (LFE) is a requirement for all undergraduates at the university. Through LFE, students get hands-on experience of the problems of poverty in Bangladesh. IUB is in the process of developing a comprehensive longitudinal socio-economic database for different field sites, to allow LFE students to gather high-quality data on the effects of implementing development projects, across an extended period of time. As part of this database, IUB is looking to gather newborn birth information, to help monitor problems of childhood nutrition.

Bangladesh does not have any central database for birth records - most births take place at home, with the help of a midwife, and no data is recorded or maintained. The two most significant factors contributing to childhood malnutrition are low birth weight and premature delivery. In order to have a good understanding of the problem and develop appropriate interventions we need a comprehensive database of birth records including gender, birth weights and gestational ages of newborn babies. As deliveries are taking place at home, the person best capable of acquiring this information, other than family members, is the midwife who assists in the delivery.
When this information is gathered by hand, it is prone to errors due to inadequate data entry skills and recall bias of the midwives. The acquired data is subsequently subjected to deliberate corruption, or inadvertent bias.

The Challenge

Development of a Birth Record Communicator

We believe empowering the midwives with adequate technology to:

  1. Record essential information related to birth: birth weight, date, sex and gestational period accurately and reliably.
  2. Communicate the information to a central repository

will allow IUB to create a comprehensive database of birth records. This may be a major step towards appreciating the true nature and extent of malnutrition in Bangladesh, and the long-term effects of interventions targeting it.

The ‘Birth Record Communicator’ device is a weighing machine embedded with a communication device. The module will have buttons to input sex and gestational age. For the communication module we plan to use a low end ($20) mobile phone. We will send the information gathered automatically, via text messages. The different inputs: weight, sex, and gestational age will be collected, collated and transmitted to the mobile phone with the help of a micro-controller (a relatively low end micro-controller like PIC16 is sufficient). Our module will also have a small LCD display that will show the information for verification. Once verified, pressing a ‘Send’ button will form a text message and send the message. The message will be captured by another mobile phone connected to the remote server hosting the database at IUB.

We intend to introduce the ‘Birth Record Communicator’ through our LFE students at Manikganj site (50 km from Dhaka). Initially midwives of one of the villages will be provided with the equipment free of cost and students will train the midwives in the village how to use the equipment. We hope to scale up our operation after the successful completion of the pilot.

The challenge is for MIT students to work with a team of students and faculty from IUB, to help with product design of a ‘Birth Record Communicator’ suitable for field-use by midwives (with iterative improvements based on feedback from field-trials), for students to prototype the device at IUB, and for students to help design and code the micro-controller required for this device.

Qualifications, Preferences, and Assets

1-2 students with the following skills:

Proficiency in Micro-Controller coding.
Expertise in micro-controller and mobile phone interfacing through USB port.
Expertise in product designing with focus on the needs of consumers in the developing world.

[The skill requirements are flexible. Please contact Dr. Sabbir if you are interested and think you have relevant skills]

Time constraints:

We could use help anytime!


Ali Shihab Sabbir, PhD.
Associate Professor
Independent University, Bangladesh
School of Enegineering and Computer Science
Plot 16, Block B, Aftabuddin Rd. Bashundhara, Dhaka 1229, Bangladesh

PKG Center Support

MIT students who develop projects around these ideas may apply for support from the Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center's Fellowships, Grants, or IDEAS/Global challenge programs. Please check the program descriptions and deadlines and talk to program staff to determine which is most appropriate for your needs and project.

If you want to volunteer or you have funding from outside the PKG Center that enables you to work on this project, that's great! However, please do let us know if you work on a project you saw advertised here, even if you don't use our funds. And remember, the PKG Center staff are happy to advise on service projects even if we are not funding them ourselves.

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