Holly Ladd, being diagnosed with ALS 22 months ago, passed away on June 23rd. Holly was a pioneer in our field, a dear friend to all that was sensible, and someone we all will miss very much.
Holly was the first to believe in us, giving us our first contract ever, back in 2002. She also introduced us to Mark Shields at the CDC and together we built the early pieces of the SmartCare project in Zambia, which led to one of the largest ICT systems to support HIV patients in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Holly was also instrumental in driving for use of open source technologies, and advocating for open source within the donor community. She was one of the forces behind the OpenRosa consortium, the playground where the JavaRosa XForm engine, now used in the majority of open source mobile technologies (including ODK, CommCare, SurveyCTO, Formhub, and others), was realized. Holly placed great value in community and wanted more recognition for the ICT interventions than herself or her organizations. Many of our community recognized this with the creation of the Holly Ladd Pioneer Award created at last year’s MHealth Summit.
On a more personal level, Holly braved her illness as she did any challenge in her life. She confronted it with objective determination, and had her focus on her goal – to inspire tangible solutions, not sympathy. She used technology to help her communicate when her vocal muscles weakened. She underwent a risky surgery to improve her quality of life. She built another, her final community, around her illness – sharing her objective struggles and spirited accomplishments through blog post (http://hollyladd.tumblr.com/) that must have taken her hours to painstakingly compose. And she shined a light to all those around her, making jokes, remembering fond stories, and inspiring for tangible solutions.
We can never repay what Holly has done to help our community. What we can, and will do, is work with her ideals – to foster community, seek tangible solutions, persevere against the greatest of challenges, and be good and loving beings. Thank you Holly, you have made a permanent mark on this world.