In the News this Week: Innovative Technology Solutions in Africa

In the news this week…

A number of interesting articles were published last week on innovative technologies for remote health care.

SMS programs are showing great promise in connecting patients with care. CNN reported on the Rapid SMS program in Rwanda, where the government has joined efforts with various U.N. organizations to fight its high maternal mortality rate. By giving out hundreds of free cell phones to expectant mothers in the rural district of Musanze through the Rapid SMS program, the government uses SMS technology to connect pregnant women to healthcare professionals who can track the progress of their pregnancies, remind them of monthly check ups, offer advice, and rapidly respond to women in need of emergency care.

See the RapidSMS program profile Cell phone technology has proven to be a valuable addition to reaching rural populations in Africa and connecting them to critical medical care faster. The Phones for Health project also operates in Rwanda, leveraging cell phone technology to improve response time to epidemics.

In neighboring Kenya and Tanzania, FHI partners with PROGRESS on the the Mobile for Reproductive Health (m4RH) project to increase low cost family planning education, via text messages and SMS of mobile phones. The messages provide information of methods of family planning and to help locate nearby clinics. See the FHI site for more information.

It will be interesting to see if a number of cell phone technology models and call centers that have taken off in India, such as HMRI, will start to replicate in Africa as cell phone coverage and availability continues to grow rapidly.

In other news about innovative models to reach rural populations in Africa, the Camel Mobile Clinic was highlighted this week in the Change Observer as it moves forward with field testing of its unique model. This program uses an interesting combination of new technology (solar-powered refrigerators) and traditional transportation methods (camels) to bring medical goods, such as vaccines, to remote communities in Kenya and Ethiopia. As author Ernest Beck points out, though, it remains to be seen how this program will scale up. Is the main barrier to scale the access to camels, solar-powered refrigerators, or both?