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Health policy must be future-fit

Innovation in the business, economic and government environments is at a rapid pace, and although many sectors are keeping up with it, the public health sector is lagging, writes VALTER ADAO, Digital Africa leader, Deloitte.

The metabolism of innovation in the current business, economic and government environment, from a delivery perspective, is at a pace never seen before.  However, the public health sector has lagged significantly behind. It is not the only sector in this situation.

Large successful global organisations have started to show symptoms of not being able to keep up with the rates of change in technology and the innovations required to remain at the forefront of new developments.  Research has shown that fewer than 5 per cent of category leading organisations are ahead of the market and leading their peer group with self-developed innovations.  It doesn’t mean that they don’t value innovation, but rather suggests that they have discovered more effective ways to harness the innovation potential of the collective, start-ups and institutions which are smaller, nimble and able to act efficiently in creating and testing value creating innovations.

There are numerous examples of this, from Unilever’s open innovation platforms, in which they work with communities and entrepreneurs to solve their customers and society’s biggest challenges, and GE would partner with Quirky in 2013, and proceeded to give then full access to their patent inventory.

It’s this new type of problem solving and approach to innovation that is separating, leading organisations from followers.

If disruption is the new norm of the 4th industrial revolution, then observing, partnering, enabling and investing is the fast track to successful innovation implementations.

What can ministries of health in Africa learn from this new approach to being on the forefront and implementation of innovation?

Here are a few facts to consider:

  • The African continent is not homogenous.  As a whole it has registered positive economic growth over the last five years (2012-2016), with the few exceptions being countries that experienced political tensions or were heavily reliant on resources. Rates of growth are also not uniform and range from above 9% for countries such as Ethiopia and Cote d’Ivoire to less than 1% in South Africa.  It would suggest that tailor-made, culturally sensitive solutions are required in different regions of the continent to achieve the desired outcomes.
  • There is significant urbanisation happening across all major African cities.  The population living in urban areas increased from just 28.1% in 1995 to 37.7% in 2015 and is expected to be over 50% by 2030 (which is already case in many of the continents leading economies).  This holds several advantages namely:
    • Whilst cause and effect cannot be clearly demonstrated there is a clear indication that a higher urbanised population correlates with better economic fundamentals
    • A geographically concentrated population allows for improved targeting of healthcare upliftment initiatives and healthcare infrastructure development
    • With a newly urbanised populations, targeted healthcare programs have access to parochial knowledge of rural healthcare needs and challenges in concentrated and easily accessible format.  This creates an ideal environment for the POCing (proof of concept) of many variations of an initiative before significant investments are made.  This will significantly influence the positive healthcare outcomes of investments into this sector
  • The diversity of the continent continues if we explore the respective healthcare sectors.
    • Significant inroads have been made in reducing instance of communicable disease around the continent – although it remains a significant challenge. Non-communicable disease that is typically related to more “modern” lifestyles is also on the increase. Neglected tropical disease such as Malaria has also remained stubbornly pervasive in West Africa. Adopting regionalised and/or localised strategies for addressing key health concerns is likely to be necessary for improving outcomes in the future.
    • Clear differences in the decision and capacity to address key health concerns can also be seen across the African continent. The two largest economies on the continent, South Africa and Nigeria are by far the largest spenders on healthcare with figures of USD 28 billion and USD 18 billion respectively noted in 2015.  The East Africa region is however growing fastest of all regions in Sub-Saharan Africa and putting considerable emphasis on healthcare investment.
    • In conclusion, we have regions where the spend in healthcare as a percentage of GDP is at the some of the lowest levels seen globally.  These regions require basic investment initiatives. However, in regions like Nigeria and South Africa where healthcare is the highest on the continent, healthcare outcome are still poor. This would speak to a need for improved, sophisticated and efficient deployment of healthcare spend, innovations and investments in those regions
    • Reversing the later trend and seeking to boost and optimise the efficiency of healthcare spend is critical because of the further economic benefits this will likely yield.

Accepting that the region needs continued attention to address either the lack of investment into healthcare infrastructure and services and to improve healthcare outcomes where the investment is sufficient, would suggest the need for more sophisticated and innovative deployment of healthcare investments and solutions.

Learning from leading organisations that have changed their approach to innovation, perhaps it’s time for ministries of health to capitalise on these wider innovation trends. The deviation from the traditional Public-Private Partnership models is that government would not be the recipient, owner, implementer and perhaps even the investor into these solutions.  Government would rather play a leading role in identifying the healthcare challenges to be solved, defining the design constraints within which solutions should be created, monitoring and evaluating the desired outcomes, and reducing  restrictive regulations to allow for the rapid and scaled deployment of solutions.

The recipients of these solutions would be citizens; and the ownership and investment into these solutions would in term lie with private/global organisations, NGOs, and entrepreneurs. The concluding hypothesis would be the improved and rapid deployment of such initiatives, which would not only address of the toughest healthcare challenges on the continent with rapid, innovative and self-sustainable solutions, but also contribute towards economic growth, job creation and investment attractiveness of the region.

It is therefore necessary for a design-thinking principles to be implemented in creating newer, future-fit healthcare service models that are suited for the African continent and improve health spending efficiency, along with health access and outcomes for the general population.

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Mobile is the new branch

Standard Bank has launched an account for mobile devices that gives back 500MB of data a month

Standard Bank has introducd a R4.95p/m bank account called MyMo that customers can open on their mobile devices, loaded with data and airtime offerings and other benefits such as virtual and Gold physical card.

MyMo account holders will also enjoy the convenience of a cheque account through a Visa and Mastercard gold card. Once the account is open, users can choose to either receive R50 in airtime or 500MB of data a month, if their card is swiped more than four times a month. A further megabyte of data is loaded on the account for every R20 spent.

“MyMo is an account for everyone, whether you just landed your first job or have been around the block. With no documentation required it only takes a few minutes to open the account,” says Funeka Montjane, Chief Executive for Personal and Business Banking, South Africa, at Standard Bank Group. “For just R4.95 a month customer will be able to enjoy free swipes and ATM withdrawals at only R6.50 for amounts under R 1 000.

“Mobile is the new branch. This account is about bringing the mobile branch into customers hands, it is about convenience and security while banking.”

She says mobile offers low cost transactional banking which integrates people and businesses into the new connected economy, making mobile the new branch ecosystem that will drive and connect Africa’s growth. Physical connections to the economy are rapidly changing to digital where banks have to move from being financial institutions to service organisations.

“In the past people congregated in communities and eventually cities to maximise the advantages of connectivity. Today a simple hand-held device has the potential to open infinite doors, transforming individuals’ access to opportunities, regardless of where they are, and like never before in history. 

“Historically, a bank account represented access to economic citizenship. Today, having a simple device enabling digital access to a modern banking platform is a passport to global connectivity and vast human development potential.”

The bank says it is using technology, and mobile phones in particular, to deliver low-cost transactional channels accessible to all our customers. The evolution in mobile can be seen in transaction options like cash back at the retail checkout till rather than the ATM, free digital banking rather than using a branch, and the ability to transact using digital wallets, even without a bank account.

“Developing comprehensive connected ecosystems requires a mind-set change from Africa’s banks,” says Montjane. “Banks will evolve away from traditional financial service organisations, into service ecosystems enabling broad universal access to almost everything like enhanced purchasing experiences of vehicles and homes, online procurement of goods and services and lifestyle elements like rewards and travel. 

“These connectivity drivers will also act to future-proof evolving connectivity ecosystem by allowing us to offer untold future services while deriving income from as yet unrealised revenue streams,.   

From a customer perspective, the kind of ecosystems of knowledge, access and, ultimately, connectivity that banks will come to provide will radically transform the share of life that almost all individuals will be able to access.”

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Two-thirds of SA staff hide social media from bosses

With 90% of people in employment going online several times a day, it can be hard for most workers to keep their private and work-life separate during the working day (and beyond). The recently published Global Privacy Report from Kaspersky Lab reveals that 64% of South African consumers choose to hide social media activity from their boss. This secretive stance at work also extends to their colleagues, with 60% of South Africans also preferring not to reveal online activities to their co-workers.

Globally, the average employee spends an astonishing 13 years and two months at work during their lifetime. Interestingly though, not all this time is directly related to solving work tasks or earning a promotion: almost two thirds (64%) of consumers admit visiting non-work-related websites every day from their desk.

Not surprisingly, 35% of South African employees are against their employer knowing which websites they visit. However, more interestingly, 60% of South African are even against their colleagues knowing about their online activities. This probably means that colleagues constitute an even greater threat to future perspectives of an office slouch or maybe the relationships with colleagues are more informal and therefore, more valuable.

On the contrary, social media activity appears to be a less private domain for many and therefore, more suitable for sharing with colleagues but not the boss. This is probably because workers fear harming the public image of a company or interest in decreased staff productivity motivates companies to monitor employees’ social networks and make career changing decisions based on that. Such policies have led to 64% of South Africans saying that they don’t want to reveal their social media activities to their boss and 53% even don’t want to disclose this information to their colleagues.

A further 29% are against showing the content of their messages and emails to their employer. In addition, 3% even said that their career was irrevocably damaged as a consequence of their personal information being leaked. Thus, people are worried about how to build a favourable internal reputation and how not to destroy existing workplace relationships.

“As going online is an integral part of our life nowadays, lines continue to blur between our digital existence at work and at home. And that’s neither good nor bad. That’s how we live in the digital age. Just keep remembering that as an employee you need to be increasingly cautious of what exactly you post on social media feeds or what websites you prefer using at work. One misconceived action on the internet could have an irrevocable long-term impact on even the most ambitious worker’s ability to climb the career ladder of their choice in the future,” comments Marina Titova, Head of Consumer Product Marketing at Kaspersky Lab.

To ensure workers don’t fall prey of the internet threats at a work, there are some core guidelines to adhere to in the digital age:

  • Don’t post anything that could be considered defamatory, obscene, proprietary or libellous. If in doubt, don’t post.
  • Be aware that system administrators may at least, in theory, be informed about your web browsing patterns.
  • Don’t harass, threaten, discriminate or disparage against any colleague, partner, competitor or customer. Neither on social networks or in messages, emails, nor by any other means.
  • Don’t post photographs of other employees, customers, vendors, suppliers or company products without prior written permission.
  • Start using Kaspersky Password Manager to ensure your social media and other personal accounts are not at risk of unauthorised access by someone else in an office. Install a reliable security solution such as Kaspersky Security Cloud to protect your personal devices.

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