YouthSpark Profile: Lipda Jaruthien

YouthSpark Profiles highlight young people in Asia Pacific who are dedicated to changing the world through technology, and inspiring others along the way.

Name: Lipda Jaruthien
Country: Thailand
Occupation: Marketing Analyst, SCG Performance Chemicals

Bio: Lipda Jaruthien is a firm believer in the ability of every individual to create a positive impact on society. Since she and her university classmates created an augmented reality app for wheelchair users, Wheel-Go-Round, she has been working tirelessly since graduation to fine-tune it for practical application. Their efforts have paid off with the successful rollout of the app in the Microsoft Windows Store and winning a gold medal in the Mekong Business Challenge 2013/14. In her spare time, Lipda loves to indulge in travelling, digital photography and snorkelling. She graduated from Thammasat University with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, and a Master’s degree of Business Administration.

Why did your team decide to design an app for wheelchair users?
Wheelchair users in Bangkok face many obstacles day to day, including accessing essential services such as public transport. Though it may not sound like much, even the limited ability to visit cafes hinders them from leading their lives with dignity. Moreover, existing information about the accessibility of places and services for wheelchair users is mostly unorganised, outdated and limited.

We wanted to establish a centralised repository of practical information on all key locations and facilities in Bangkok, and hope the database can eventually be rolled out to the rest of the country. An app is a low-cost solution to develop and free for users.

We hope users find it helpful in leading the independent lives they want. It will take more than just developing an app to achieve that goal, which is why I’m appreciative of the support we have of partner organisations such as Thai Health Promotion Foundation, Tourism Authority of Thailand and Chulalongkorn University.

What impact has Innovate for Good (a YouthSpark programme) had for you?
When we knew that the Innovate for Good programme was being conducted by nonprofit and IT professionals, we didn’t hesitate to sign up for it. We saw it as a catalyst for the project’s takeoff and we were confident the programme would help shape the product in the best way possible.

Because of Innovate for Good, we had direct access to IT experts who shared valuable insights and technical advice on every aspect of our app development, including user design.

What if we hadn’t joined this programme? I think we would have continued to pursue Wheel-Go-Round on our own, but we wouldn’t have been able to come this far in the same amount of time. Not only did we gain technical knowledge, we established connections and forged partnerships. We have also learnt about new technologies that we hope to deploy in future.

 Lipda’s Wheel-Go-Round team has organised outings to interesting venues for wheelchair users. Twenty wheelchair users and caretakers participated in the first event

What is one tip you would give to other young people who want to work on the same issue as you?
Well, this isn’t exactly a tip… I just want to encourage all social innovators to put their good ideas into action! 

I’m inspired by … a book called “Khon Lek Lek” (which refers to unsung heroes, or literally, small persons). It’s a collection of stories about the good deeds of ordinary folks ranging from a doctor in a small local clinic to a gardener. It reinforces my belief in how everyone can help create positive change in society.

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