tAPPing into innovation: Making a positive impact through apps | Adrit Rao | TEDxGunnHighSchool | Summary and Q&A

September 25, 2023
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tAPPing into innovation: Making a positive impact through apps | Adrit Rao | TEDxGunnHighSchool


Smartphone apps are revolutionizing accessibility, from preventing blindness to aiding in COVID-19 contact tracing, showcasing the power of innovation.

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Key Insights

  • 😃 Smartphone apps play a crucial role in preventing diseases like COVID-19 and diagnosing eye conditions, showcasing their impact on healthcare accessibility.
  • 😀 The app development ecosystem allows individuals to create solutions to societal problems, democratizing technology and innovation.
  • 🤩 Accessibility is key in addressing global issues, emphasizing the importance of ensuring solutions reach those most in need.


during this covid-19 pandemic a single smartphone app averted up to 900 000 covid-19 cases in just England and Wales this single app reached the smartphones of 21 million people and made an impact by performing automatic contact tracing and helping people stay safe during this pandemic for every one percent increase in the number of this app's down... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How are smartphone apps impacting the fight against COVID-19?

Smartphone apps enable automatic contact tracing, leading to significant reductions in COVID-19 cases by alerting individuals to potential exposures and encouraging preventative measures.

Q: How is innovation helping prevent blindness in low-income countries?

Innovative smartphone apps are diagnosing eye conditions affordably, revolutionizing healthcare accessibility and preventing blindness in regions lacking resources for traditional equipment.

Q: Why are smartphones regarded as a key tool for accessibility?

With 6.42 billion users globally, smartphones offer a platform for app developers to reach a vast audience, democratizing technology and solving societal issues at scale.

Q: How can individuals leverage app development for societal impact?

By identifying a problem of interest and developing an app tailored to address it, individuals can utilize app accessibility to make a meaningful impact on society.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, a smartphone app in England and Wales prevented up to 900,000 COVID-19 cases by performing automatic contact tracing. This app reached 21 million people and showcased the power of innovation to reach people at scale. Additionally, a smartphone app has been developed to help diagnose eye conditions in low-income countries, potentially preventing blindness. The availability of tools such as AI and data science has opened up innovative possibilities to solve specific societal problems. The challenge lies in making these tools accessible to the people who can use them and need them. Fortunately, smartphones have become near ubiquitous around the world, providing accessibility at scale.

Questions & Answers

Q: How did a single smartphone app avert up to 900,000 COVID-19 cases in England and Wales?

This single app performed automatic contact tracing, reaching 21 million people and making a significant impact. For every one percent increase in the number of app downloads, there was a 2.3 percent reduction in COVID-19 cases.

Q: How has a smartphone app helped diagnose eye conditions in low-income countries?

The app costs only $500, while traditional equipment costs over $25,000 and is not portable or feasible. By using this app, we can prevent blindness and provide much-needed treatment in low-income countries.

Q: How is innovation fundamentally changing how we solve problems for society?

Innovation has revolutionized how we can instantly reach people at scale worldwide, solving problems and making an unprecedented impact in people's lives. It has opened up new possibilities for building tailored tools using technologies like AI and data science.

Q: What are the two main things needed to make a major impact on society?

To make a significant difference, we need tools or capabilities that provide solutions and the ability to reach a large number of people. Advancements in technology and science offer innovative tools, but accessibility at scale is crucial for reaching the intended audience.

Q: What is the estimate of global smartphone users?

It is estimated that there are 6.42 billion smartphone users worldwide, which accounts for approximately 84 percent of the world's population. Smartphones have become increasingly accessible and affordable, even in regions where clean drinking water is scarce.

Q: How have smartphones redefined the definition of a phone?

Modern smartphones are no longer just devices for communication. They are packed with features and computational capabilities that have transformed them into versatile tools. The introduction of the App Store has allowed developers to unlock the true potential of smartphones by tailoring them to specific needs.

Q: How were apps able to unlock the true potential of smartphones?

The App Store, introduced alongside the iPhone in 2007, created an app development ecosystem. This allowed developers worldwide to create and distribute their apps instantly, reaching all connected phones. Apps enabled scientists, researchers, and others to spread their innovations and solutions to the masses.

Q: How did the accessibility of smartphones influence the individual's journey in app development?

The individual was fascinated with smartphones and app development from a young age. Learning online, they discovered the engaging and visual aspects of app programming. This motivated them to continue developing apps that could make a difference in society. Currently, they have five apps on the App Store and are researching how to democratize technologies such as AI and make them accessible in healthcare settings.

Q: What steps are involved in developing an app to solve a problem and make an impact on society?

The process begins with finding a problem the developer is passionate about. The aim is to solve a problem in an accessible manner so that the innovation can reach people. It is important to understand the problem through the perspective of those experiencing it. The development process should proceed step by step, utilizing the resources available online to overcome challenges.

Q: How important is the accessibility of an app or solution?

Accessibility is crucial in ensuring that innovations and inventions can reach the people who need them. Regardless of the field, focusing on accessibility can lead to making a real impact in the world. By prioritizing accessibility, major problems can be solved, benefiting those in need.


The COVID-19 pandemic showed how a single smartphone app could prevent a significant number of cases through automatic contact tracing. Moreover, the development of a low-cost app for diagnosing eye conditions in low-income countries demonstrated the potential to prevent blindness. The power of innovation lies in its ability to reach people at scale, which can be achieved through smartphone accessibility. With features like the App Store, anyone can develop and distribute apps tailored to specific problems, making an impact on society. By focusing on accessibility, individuals can spread their innovations and inventions, addressing the needs of those who can benefit the most.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Smartphone apps are instrumental in preventing up to 900,000 COVID-19 cases in England and Wales by performing automatic contact tracing on 21 million smartphones.

  • An app diagnosing eye conditions in low-income countries costs $500, a fraction of traditional equipment's cost, revolutionizing healthcare accessibility.

  • The ubiquity of smartphones, coupled with app development ecosystems, democratizes technology, empowering individuals to create impactful solutions globally.

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