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Steven VanRoekel, USAID Chief Innovation Officer, at CES Government
Steven VanRoekel, USAID Chief Innovation Officer, at CES Government 2015

LAS VEGAS – Steven VanRoekel, the Chief Innovation Officer for the US Agency for International Development (USAID), shared progress on the fight against Ebola at the CES Government session today, highlighting advances in more effective protective suits for doctors and aid workers.

VanRoekel was recently appointed to USAID after his stint as US CIO, and spoke at the GeekWire Summit in October about how technology can be used to design better Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The challenges for field workers, according to VanRoekel, are two-fold. The hot and humid climate means that doctors can only spend 30-60 minutes in the suit before getting overheated. The second challenge is that taking off these suits can be a long and potentially dangerous process where removing your goggles or hood could lead to Ebola exposure to your eyes or nose.

This is something where we said “We can take American ingenuity, science and technology and to some extent the maker movement, and really apply that methodology to re-imagine the suit.”

USAID has been driving the initiative forward by hosting maker events for members of the healthcare community, and just a couple weeks ago awarded the first solutions coming out of the global challenge to improve these protective suits. The Johns Hopkins team fielded the winning suit which takes the process of safely removing the suit from 30 minutes to 30 seconds. Special straps and pull-away tabs allow field workers to quickly and safely emerge from the suit, which you can see in the following video.

“Stuff like this can be profoundly game-changing,” according to Vanroekel. “It is an example where technology and innovation, as you see on the show floor here at CES, can be very applicable to the role we have in solving the world’s great challenges.”

Related links

US Global Development Lab

Apply for Development Innovations Venture Fund

Editors note: Kevin Lisota used to work for Steven VanRoekel at Microsoft.

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