In order to achieve a greater economic growth, it is important that technology and innovative health solutions be implemented across the African continent.
Healthcare is a massive challenge in Africa. The continent is home to 15% of the world’s population and 24% of global disease burden, and yet has only 3% of the world’s healthcare workforce at its disposal. Demands on the healthcare systems are also increasing as non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease, are on the rise. Healthcare providers across the continent will therefore need to prioritise early detection and treatment. As such, the continent is reliant on the public and private sectors to work together to develop solutions to tackle healthcare delivery challenges.
According to the World Bank, 50% of economic growth differential between developing and developed nations can be attributed to poor health. The healthier the citizens of a country, the more effective the workforce and the greater the potential for economic growth. To achieve this and leapfrog the global healthcare systems it is critical that technology and innovative solutions be implemented across the continent.
“We have developed a range of healthcare solutions using mobile technology specifically to bridge the gap,” says Vuyani Jarana Chief Officer at Vodacom Business. “These solutions are up and running in locations across Africa and will help overcome healthcare challenges facing the continent.”
A shortage of doctors and nurses is one challenge. As such, the continent relies heavily on Community Health Workers (CHWs) to provide healthcare services at people’s homes. One of the biggest challenges facing the CHWs has been correctly capturing patient information to create and file accurate records.
“We have developed a mobile application that runs on an Android smartphone. This allows CHWs to capture patient information, making service records more accurate and easily accessible,” says Jarana. This mobile application which is currently in use in Kenya and South Africa, has increased the quality and productivity of CHW programmes significantly, leading to better healthcare service delivery to citizens.
A similar solution has been rolled out in Mozambique to increase the efficacy of immunisation programmes. Caregivers and children are registered by a nurse using a mobile application. They then receive an SMS reminder when they are due to go back to the clinic for an immunisation visit. Should a child fall behind on their immunisation schedule, the system flags the case allowing the clinics to intervene and ensure the child receives all scheduled vaccinations.
The supply and effective stock keeping of essential medicines is another challenge facing the continent. “We have implemented a stock visibility solution in more than 5 000 primary health care clinics in Tanzania and more than 1 200 clinics in South Africa,” says Jarana.
A mobile phone, running a native application linked to a specific primary health care facility, is issued to each clinic. A weekly SMS is sent to remind the clinic management to submit an update on stock levels, expiry dates, wastage and stock received. The information is uploaded via the GSM network into a Vodacom data centre, allowing the system to flag low stock levels and stock-outages and inform management to supply the stock needed. The system not only tracks information about quantity and location, but also urgency. This informs the supply chain to deliver the correct quantities of essential medicines to the right facilities on time.
Jarana believes that technology will be a key driver in helping the continent to overcome some of its healthcare challenges. “Mobile technology can address some of the biggest healthcare challenges in Africa. Our job is to continue to develop relevant and innovative solutions that will meet the continent’s growing need for quality healthcare services,” he concludes.
Africa gets broadband boost
ITU and Nexpedience, a supplier of proprietary point-to-multipoint broadband infrastructure, are partnering to bring broadband access to Africa.
Under the terms of the deal, Nexpedience will provide 180 new Expedience base stations worth USD 1 million, to be deployed in six nations across the continent. The first nation to benefit from the new infrastructure is Burundi, with deployments also planned for Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Mali, Rwanda and Swaziland.
Designed to withstand extreme meteorological conditions and capable of providing up to 32 kilometres of sector coverage, Nexpedience’s base stations have been specifically designed for rural deployment.
ITU’s Wireless Broadband Network in Africa project aims to develop and implement wireless broadband connectivity and applications that will provide free or low-cost digital access for schools, hospitals, and under-served populations in rural and remote areas Africa-wide.
At the signing of the agreement in Geneva, Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) emphasized the need to make developing countries part of the global broadband revolution: ‚”This partnership represents another important element in ITU’s efforts to bring broadband technology to the world even in the poorest nations. I am confident that this new partnership will accelerate broadband uptake right across the African continent, bringing the power of high-speed connectivity to users everywhere, from big cities to small villages.‚”
Kiriako Vergos, CEO of Nexpedience said: ‚”Giving access to broadband technology to underserved populations in Africa is of great importance to us. There are enormous benefits to be derived from a ‚’broadband-seed’ deployment strategy, and we decided to partner with ITU because we know that the organization has the team in place to get it done.‚”
ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Tour√© said the new agreement is a ‚”major step forward in getting Africa connected‚”. Dr Tour√© led the establishment of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010, which has the aim of putting broadband at the heart of the global development agenda.
Nokia backs tech hubs for developing world
Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev are collaborating with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America to act as scouts for local talent.
Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev, a global innovation program of the World Bank, have announced a collaboration with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America – a move that will empower these hubs to act as scouts and agents for local talent, fast-tracking their access to AppCampus funding.
AppCampus was established in 2012 as a mobile application accelerator program managed by Aalto University in Finland. With an 18 million euro joint investment between Microsoft and Nokia, the aim is to foster mobile application development on Windows Phone and any other Nokia platform.
The announcement earmarks part of that investment fund for twenty six awards per annum for the best mobile innovation ideas to be made via the mobile innovation hub network, starting with infoDev’s mobile application labs in South Africa, Kenya, Armenia and Vietnam, as well as mobile application laboratories in Egypt (TIEC), Nigeria (CC Hub) and Mexico. The value of each award ranges from 20,000 Euro (US$ 26,000) to 70,000 Euro (US$ 90,000) depending on the complexity of the solution or business model behind the idea.
‚”By working jointly with the mobile innovation hubs, we are able to connect more effectively with local developers in emerging markets and provide support in terms of funding, especially for locally relevant innovations,‚” says Pekka Sivonen, Head of AppCampus. ‚”Although the criteria to access the AppCampus funding remains the same, with ideas needing to be original, competitive and scalable, the advantage is faster processing and the mentorship provided by these innovation hubs.‚”
The hubs and mLabs will be responsible for scouting talent and vetting ideas to be submitted to the global pool. infoDev’s mLabs foster regional entrepreneurship, employment and competitiveness by providing open spaces where developers can find training, mentoring, technical expertise and access to financing. In a short time, mLab-supported startups have brought over 120 commercial apps to market The best new entries from this network will compete against each other each quarter for the available awards.
‚”Nokia, working closely with infoDev, has supported the establishment and operation of a number of mLabs across emerging markets in support of local developers,‚” says Jussi Hinkkanen, vice president corporate relations for Nokia Middle East and Africa. ‚”The AppCampus collaboration showcases our commitment to strengthening the growing mLab network around the world and infoDev’s vision of supporting emerging market entrepreneurs in conquering local, regional and global markets‚”.
The official launch of the program took place during the mobile stream at the Global Forum on Innovation & Technology Entrepreneurship in East London, South Africa, organized by infoDev and the South African Department of Science & Technology. A key theme of the Forum is how innovation can lead to high-growth entrepreneurship which creates sustainable jobs. Valerie D’Costa, infoDev’s Program Manager says, ‚”The AppCampus initiative fits with the philosophy of infoDev of supporting innovative entrepreneurs from developing countries. We want to support those who can excel with some level of mentorship, skills training and seed financing. We provide potential job-creators better access to markets, which is what we are all about.‚”