3DS increases accountability and safetyJuly 17, 2018
3DS proves that digital records keep us safe and authorities accountable
Interview led by: Kimberly Richter, C5 Accelerate
Lewis Wanjohi, CEO and founder of 3DS, a PeaceTech Accelerator participant, is digitizing record keeping in the developing world. Already active in Kenya’s law enforcement and healthcare industries, his organization improves transparency and accountability in markets where nearly 80% of all business is still conducted on pen and paper.
Lewis joined C5 Accelerate and its partners AWS, SAP NS2, and PeaceTech Lab to scale his data infrastructure solution, addressing the lack of lack of information sharing and analysis in Kenya’s public sector.
Read more about Lewis’ story in an exclusive interview with C5 Accelerate below.
What inspired you to start 3DS?
My mum; she was experiencing severe headaches and went to the hospital to have them treated. There she was given a drug, which did little to help her pain. We quickly took her to another hospital, where they prescribed her a second medication. Tragically, the interaction of the two ended her life.
The lack of information sharing between hospitals is a problem that was easily preventable, and yet proved fatal.
In a similar vein, there was a prolific rapist in the area that I grew up in, who would target local elementary schools. He was able to move from town to town, change nothing but his name, and continue his practice. It took five years for the authorities to piece his story together. Think of how many children’s lives could have played out differently had there been a shared database of criminal records between counties.
Moreover, relying on paper leaves space for fraud and corruption. It’s all too easy to pay someone to remove a file or to adjust a record. In my hometown, there was an investigation planned for the local police station. Just days before the investigation was to take place, the building mysteriously burnt to the ground. More than ten years of records were lost. This kind of corruption has become a normal in Kenya, and culturally it hinders our success.
What other organizations are working to improve transparency in this space?
There are few others in Africa, as new solutions are shut down almost immediately. Even in my experience, my peers tell me, “don’t even think about doing this this”. My advisors have gone so far as to say that pursuing my idea puts my life at risk.
In the face of this danger, our implementing strategy is to partner with larger organizations, including large multilaterals and international investment firms such as C5. Building credibility and a reputation is the most important thing I can do to facilitate implementation of this technology.
Tell me about your team.
We’re a team of four; my partners have previously worked at IBM, Google, Microsoft, and Safaricom. They’re fantastic. We met at a robotics and AI competition hosted by the MIT Media Lab in Boston.
They’re all older than I am, but I’ve learned that I can bring people together around an idea. Leadership isn’t about your age, it’s about having a vision to create something.
What advice would you give to other young social entrepreneurs?
I would advise others in my position to never give up. There was an article posted about me challenging the police in Kenya, and in the comments you saw responses from all kinds of people from Africa. Some good, but a lot of ugly. You must brush off that negativity and focus on what matters.
What developments in technology are you seeing right now that have the greatest potential?
I’m most excited about AI and data analytics. As of now, I feel frustrated that they’re not stretched to their maximum potential.
For example, I developed an app that analyzes the frequency of a cough to diagnose tuberculosis and ammonia. More commonly, that same technology is used for Shazam, a popular music identification app.
Facial recognition can be used to diagnose anemia, but more often its used for Snapchat filters. I believe strongly that it’s important to use and commercialize technology responsibly.
What is your 50 year plan?
I’m passionate about Africa – 50 years from now, I hope to see an Africa that is not viewed as this poor or backwards continent, but rather, as one that is prosperous, collaborative, and peaceful.
By improving the flow of information, hopefully I can help facilitate this progress.