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Health policy must be future-fit

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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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Tech promotes connections across groups in emerging markets

Digital technology users say they more regularly interact with people from diverse backgrounds

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Smartphone users – especially those who use social media – say they are more regularly exposed to people who have different backgrounds. They are also more connected with friends they don’t see in person, a Pew Research Center survey of adults in 11 emerging economies finds.

South Africa, included in the study, has among the most consistent levels of connection across age groups and education levels and in terms of cross-cultural connections. This suggests both that smartphones have had a greater democratisation impact in South Africa, but also that the country is more geared to diversity than most others. Of 11 countries surveyed, it has the second-lowest spread between those using smartphones and those not using them in terms of exposure to other religious groups.

Across every country surveyed, those who use smartphones are more likely than those who use less sophisticated phones or no phones at all to regularly interact with people from different religious groups. In most countries, people with smartphones also tend to be more likely to interact regularly with people from different political parties, income levels and racial or ethnic backgrounds. 

The Center’s new report is the third in a series exploring digital connectivity among populations in emerging economies based on nationally representative surveys of adults in Colombia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, the Philippines, Tunisia, South Africa, Venezuela and Vietnam. Earlier reports examined attitudes toward misinformation and mobile technology’s social impact

The survey finds that smartphone and social media use are intertwined: A median of 91% of smartphone users in these countries also use social media or messaging apps, while a median of 81% of social media users say they own or share a smartphone. And, as with smartphone users, social media and messaging app users stand apart from non-users in how often they interact with people who are different from them. For example, 52% of Mexican social media users say they regularly interact with people of a different income level, compared with 28% of non-users. 

These results do not show with certainty that smartphones or social media are the cause of people feeling like they have more diverse networks. For example, those who have resources to buy and maintain a smartphone are likely to differ in many key ways from those who don’t, and it could be that some combination of those differences drives this phenomenon. Still, statistical modelling indicates that smartphone and social media use are independent predictors of greater social network diversity when other factors such as age, education and sex are held constant. 

Other key findings in the report include: 

  • Mobile phones and social media are broadening people’s social networks. More than half in most countries say they see in person only about half or fewer of the people they call or text. Mobile phones are also allowing many to stay in touch with people who live far away: A median of 93% of mobile phone users across the 11 countries surveyed say their phones have mostly helped them keep in touch with those who are far-flung. When it comes to social media, large shares report relationships with “friends” online who are distinct from those they see in person. A median of 46% of Facebook users across the 11 countries report seeing few or none of their Facebook friends in person regularly, compared with a median of 31% of Facebook users who often see most or all of their Facebook friends in person. 
  • Social activities and information seeking on subjects like health and education top the list of mobile activities. The survey asked mobile phone users about 10 different activities they might do on their mobile phones – activities that are social, information-seeking or commercial in nature. Among the most commonly reported activities are casual, social activities. For example, a median of 82% of mobile phone users in the 11 countries surveyed say they used their phone over the past year to send text messages and a median of 69% of users say they took pictures or videos. Many mobile phone users are also using their phones to find new information. For example, a median of 61% of mobile phone users say they used their phones over the past year to look up information about health and medicine for themselves or their families. This is more than the proportion that reports using their phones to get news and information about politics (median of 47%) or to look up information about government services (37%). Additionally, around half or more of mobile phone users in nearly all countries report having used their phones over the past 12 months to learn something important for work or school. 
  • Digital divides emerge in the new mobile-social environment. People with smartphones and social media – as well as younger people, those with higher levels of education, and men – are in some ways reaping more benefits than others, potentially contributing to digital divides. 
    • People with smartphones are much more likely to engage in activities on their phones than people with less sophisticated devices – even if the activity itself is quite simple. For example, people with smartphones are more likely than those with feature or basic phones to send text messages in each of the 11 countries surveyed, even though the activity is technically feasible from all mobile phones. Those who have smartphones are also much more likely to look up information for their households, including about health and government services. 
    •  There are also major differences in mobile usage by age and education level in how their devices are – or are not – broadening their horizons. Younger people are more likely to use their phones for nearly all activities asked about, whether those activities are social, information-seeking or commercial. Phone users with higher levels of education are also more likely to do most activities on their phones and to interact with those who are different from them regularly than those with lower levels of education. 
    •  Gender, too, plays a role in what people do with their devices and how they are exposed to different people and information. Men are more likely than women to say they encounter people who are different from them, whether in terms of race, politics, religion or income. And men tend to be more likely to look up information about government services and to obtain political news and information. 

These findings are drawn from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 28,122 adults in 11 countries from Sept. 7 to Dec. 7, 2018. In addition to the survey, the Center conducted focus groups with participants in Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines and Tunisia in March 2018, and their comments are included throughout the report. 

Read the full report at https://www.pewinternet.org/2019/08/22/in-emerging-economies-smartphone-and-social-media-users-have-broader-social-networks.

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Nokia to be first with Android 10

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Nokia is likely to be the first smartphone brand to roll out Android 10, after its manufacturer, HMD Global, announced that the Android 10 software upgrade would start in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Previously named Android Q, it was given the number after Google announced it was ditching sweet and dessert names due to confusion in different languages. Android 10 is due for release at the end of the year.

Juho Sarvikas, chief product officer of HMD Global said: “With a proven track record in delivering software updates fast, Nokia smartphones were the first whole portfolio to benefit from a 2-letter upgrade from Android Nougat to Android Oreo and then Android Pie. We were the fastest manufacturer to upgrade from Android Oreo to Android Pie across the range. 

“With today’s roll out plan we look set to do it even faster for Android Pie to Android 10 upgrades. We are the only manufacturer 100% committed to having the latest Android across the entire portfolio.”

HMD Global has given a guarantee that Nokia smartphone owners benefit from two years of OS upgrades and 3 years of security updates.

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