How a smartphone app can cure blindness in poor countries

(CNN)In 2012, London eye surgeon Dr. Andrew Bastawrous gave up his job and comfortable life in the capital, sold everything he and his family owned, and moved with his wife and one-year old baby to Kenya to start 100 temporary eye clinics.

His idea -- turning a smartphone into an eye examination tool -- was already a couple years in the making. Prior travels abroad to developing countries doing eye tests propelled Bastawrous to want to help those with common vision problems but little access to eye care and health equipment.
There are 39 million blind people globally, and in low-income countries, 80% of blindness is curable.
The two main causes of eye problems, he notes, are cataracts and refractive errors.
    "The majority is reversible. People who have been blind for decades, with help, can see again," he notes.
    With this concept in mind, Bastawrous and his team developed Portable Eye Examination Kit (Peek). Trialing the technology, Bastawrous' team screened 21,000 Kenyan children in 9 days, and will now begin screening another 300,000 in Trans-Nzoia, a rural farming community in eastern Kenya.

    A solution to a big problem

    "We continually found in many of these villages, where it's uncommon to have electricity and roads, there would be as many as 200 waiting when we arrived," says Bastawrous.
    "The harder it is to get to a place, the more people we'd find were there. Clearly, it's a problem," he added.