Compute for Good/Compute for Social Change

Spring 2008, Instructors: Michael Best, Santosh Vempala, Ellen Zegura


How can computing help make the world a better place? Why is providing connectivity important? How best to do so? How can computers help a nation heal? Can we avoid wars and track diseases in time to avoid epidemics? We explore problems faced by developing countries and underserved populations from a computer science perspective.


  1. Web-Based Support for Global Health Tracking in Developing Regions
    Team: Adebola Osuntogun, Stephen Thomas, Santosh Vempala, John Pitman (CDC), Sridhar Basavaraju (CDC).
  2. TRC Liberia Tent
    Team: Jennifer Stoll, Mike Best, Ellen Zegura, Susie McClain
  3. Low-income Atlanta Internet
    Team: Sanka Tandav Krishna, Dinesh Nagar, Chandan Sharma, Santosh Vempala, Operation P.E.A.C.E.
  4. AHIS [Animal Health Information System]
    Team: Sherida Heath, Mayank Goel, Ogechi Nnadi, Daniel Serrano, Thomas Smyth, Mike Best, Jeff Street (USAID/Via Consulting), AVOIR
  5. Homeless Shelter Occupancy
    Team: Patrick Bailey, Parker McGee, Evan Zasoski, Santosh Vempala, Protip Biswas (United Way).
  6. Wireless Mesh Visualization and Management Tool
    Team: Siddharth Gupta, Misi Barasz, Santosh Vempala
  7. The Nature of Wireless Traffic
    Team: Elspeth Watson, Mike Best, Ellen Zegura, Santosh Vempala


Web-Based Support for Global Health Tracking in Developing Regions

Our project, the PEPFAR Blood Safety Data Collection System is an Internet-based system for collecting and storing blood safety information from many countries. It provides support for the activities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the US President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief. The system allows data managers in less developed regions to provide timely and accurate information on blood collection and transfusion.

TRC Liberia Tent

A team from Georgia Tech is currently working with the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Liberia to help gather war crimes testimonies from Liberians involved in the civil war. This Commission is connected with the efforts being spearheaded by the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in order to rebuild the country. More information about this can be found here at the website our team built for the TRC: Part of our role in this project is to design and deliver a mobile kiosk where the testimonies and sharing of stories for reconciliation can take place. This mobile kiosk will travel from location to location as part of the overall TRC process. Part of the design of this mobile kiosk involves creating a tent shade. This tent will be used to provide TRC participants with protection from the environmental elements such as heavy rains during the rainy season. We are currently working with architects in NY ( in order to design this mobile kiosk. The design process for the tent involved creating three prototypes. The first prototype is being built in Liberia to explore the capabilities of building a tent using local materials and resources. The second prototype has been built in Atlanta to explore the capabilities of building a tent using materials and resources at Georgia Tech. The third prototype will be built and designed by Buro NY using the real-world-use feed back gathered from using the first two prototypes in Liberia. Progress on our designs can be viewed here: Although designing a tent seems far-removed from what would be considered a typical CS project, it is integrally tied to delivering technologies for social good in that 1) it demonstrates the physical considerations that must be accounted for in the technology’s context of use and 2) it stretches our understanding of what is entailed in a CS project particularly when it involves making real-world impact.

Low-income Atlanta Internet

We are working with Operation P.E.A.C.E., a non-profit, multi-service, neighborhood development organization serving the Village of Bedford Pines and the surrounding area of metropolitan Atlanta. The organization has a year-round after school program, where volunteers work to provide kids and teens with elementary tutoring and mentoring needs. We are looking into the aspects of the internet and computers in this low-income community, seeking to realize kids' interests and motivate them to start using these technologies. With the aim of creating technological awareness which can help them widen the scope of their education beyond the physical surroundings, we conducted a survey to gather information about the current usage and their perception of these technologies. We used the information gathered to design a web-based application which can help the organization in managing the program and motivate kids towards using these technologies.

AHIS [Animal Health Information System] Africa

Reducing the threat of an influenza pandemic requires a focus on preparedness and monitoring. Rapid identification, information sharing, and response is critical if we are to limit the perils of widespread avian influenza, especially those cases in humans. In Africa a relatively weak public health infrastructure exacerbate the challenges of monitoring and response. Two important and related interventions will greatly enhance Africa's ability to robustly respond to the risks of pandemic flu:
1) State of the art public health information technologies
2) Capacity building among African researchers
We propose to assist with both of these needs through an integrated and collaborative pandemic flu informatics project. In order to undertake this project three graduate students from Georgia Tech will be selected to serve as special graduate research fellows under the program. These students will spend the Spring 2008 term in Atlanta studying the problems and needs in African pandemic flu monitoring and response. Then during Summer of 2008 these same Georgia Tech students will spend the term in Africa based at the collaborating university. While this project aims to develop systems and capacity in Africa it also will offer extraordinary opportunity and life-changing experience to students at Georgia Tech.

Homeless Shelter Occupancy

United Way of Atlanta needs a better way to keep track of which homeless shelters have open beds, what kind of beds they are, and how many are open at any given time. To this end, we have created a central database with a user-friendly, web-based front-end that the various shelters can access to determine what other beds are available at what shelters, reserve those beds as necessary, and update their own information about what beds they have available.

Wireless Mesh Visualization and Management Tool

This project augments the Wireless Network Project, which aims at developing a low-cost, easy to use solution for internet access in rural India. A significant way of making the solution more usable would be to have a way of visualizing the network, and performing some basic management tasks including trouble-shooting using the visualization tool. This tool is aimed at local administrators in peer to peer networks, but in the context of rural India, most local administrators will not be very familiar with computers and network management in general. A user-friendly tool would help reduce or eliminate training time for these administrators. It would also serve as a quick, central information resource for all users.

The Nature of Wireless Traffic

The start of the project came about because of a previous one which was testing a mesh network algorithm in a city in India. The mesh network is meant to bring internet to parts of India that are currently not connected. The internet can still be expensive for one person alone but supported by multiple people might be affordable. The mesh network will take one internet connection into a village and have computers use multi-hop routing to gain access to the internet. The limited resource will be the final connection to the internet. Given this, we attempt to answer if there is significant enough local traffic to warrant creating programs specialized for local village communication. Further, if there is enough local traffic what kind of services should be offered? These are the questions this project addresses.