This year’s Cyber Summit will discuss how Canada needs to break down the digital divide and allow the entire population to benefit from advancements in technology. Huda Idrees, Founder and CEO of Dot Health, will be speaking during the Cyber Summit on November 8-9 in Banff, Alberta, to discuss how organizations can innovate beyond the red tape.
What existing challenges inspired you to start Dot Health?
I have always wanted to use technology for doing good. Healthcare is one of those industries that impacts everyone, but is still stuck in the 19th century in many ways. There's so much red tape required to make any changes that we're afraid to innovate in it!
In a world where technology has made tracking everything from your receipts to your coffee orders so easy, why is it so hard to understand and track our own health? This is the challenge our company set out to address. Our first user was a cancer patient who was struggling to keep up with his own lab work and diagnoses.
What barriers would you like to break down in order to improve access to technology?
Often, our most vulnerable communities have the least access to healthcare resources when they need it. Globe and Mail columnist André Picard described this issue best when he said: "The reality [in Canada] is that there is two-tiered medicine, but it's not a private-public split, it's an urban-rural split."
I want to help rural communities access better care with the help of technology. But before we get there, we actually need to be able to provide them with low-cost or free internet.
What other industries would benefit from apps like Dot Health?
Organizing information in a way that makes sense is essential. Once data has been organized properly, it can impact so many different areas. For example, one area where similar dis-intermediation would be effective is in the legal industry. Having gone through mountains of legal paperwork (or rather, gigabytes of .doc files — we're a paperless office), I would gladly pay for a solution that makes editing and understanding legal paperwork a breeze.
What's next for Dot Health?
We're just getting started! Dot Health is built around the mission of empowering every person by giving them access to their own health data. Canada is an incredible place to start — we can't wait to launch our service across the country and bring it to other parts of the world, soon!
You are an advocate for improving diversity in the tech industry. What are the biggest benefits for organizations to having a more diverse workforce?
I want us to think about diversity as a pre-requisite to anything we do. In this increasingly global society, where we build and sell services to people all over the world, why wouldn't we want teams that are representative of the populations we serve? Did you know that up until 2011, auto manufacturers weren't mandated to test airbag deployments on female bodies? So they were actively designing safety mechanisms that would save men but inadvertently kill women. When we start to look at the downsides of having homogenous teams, the necessity of diversity becomes very obvious.
How would you encourage others to take the leap and transform their ideas using technology?
I'm convinced we need more women to start companies if we want to see gender parity in leadership in our lifetimes. A lot of the work that a CEO does requires qualities we often attribute to women: multi-tasking, administration, training, hiring. Yet these jobs have the least female representation. I would encourage more women to start companies. I know it's hard — the startup world is not kind to women — so it would be a huge lift. But it's one that is necessary to build an equitable, sustainable future for everyone.