Why Has Mobile Health Technology Not Reached Its Full Life-Saving Potential in Africa?

Why Has Mobile Health Technology Not Reached Its Full Life-Saving Potential in Africa?

by Dr. John Baptist Niwagaba
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InSTEDD is a partner of Cisco CSR. Cisco sponsors The Huffington Post's ImpactX section.

Editor's Note: This article is part of the InSTEDD blog series "Digital Diary of a Ugandan Doctor", which provides an African born medical professional's perspective on the potential and pitfalls of technology and innovation for improved health in Sub-Saharan Africa


Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 12:05pm

In 2002, between graduating high school and starting my post-secondary education in medical studies, I worked for ten months in strenuous manual labor at a corn factory in the Kasese District, in Western Uganda. Using the savings from that work, I was able to buy myself a brand new Ericsson T10 mobile phone. Acquiring my first electronic gadget elevated me to the first million Ugandans who were "tech-savvy", able to make calls and send text messages. Owning a phone then was expensive. Handsets were the same price as an acre of land in city suburbs, and in addition, one had to pay a monthly $4 service fee to keep his phone connected to a network, as well as airtime fees.

In 2015, there are 17 million active mobile phone subscribers, more than 80% of the adult population, distributed widely across the country. This has been facilitated by the availability of cheap smartphones as well as favourable prices for voice and data. The overwhelming success of mobile solutions, especially Mobile Money, has demonstrated that a cell phone is the most practical technology in Africa. With our health indicators looking bleak, inspired technologists became motivated to find digital mobile health solutions to Africa and other low resource regions around the world.

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