2014 Youth mHealth innovation competition launched

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

With a mobile technology (ICT) penetration ranked second in Africa at 1.34 mobile subscriptions per capita for Botswana, stakeholders in the health sector have taken the opportunity to invite youths to take part in a nationwide mobile Health or mHealth competition.

According to the organisers and sponsors who include Orange, Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH), Unicef, Botswana-UPPEN Partnership, CADLINE SAIS and the Ministry of Health, mHealth has shown tremendous promise to improve health care in the country. Currently, Botswana’s public health care system faces many challenges. In addition to being burdened by TB, HIV, and malaria, the healthcare system suffers from a shortage of healthcare workers and reliable IT infrastructure especially outside of urban areas.

The competition, which is in its second year, is premised on the fact that the rapid growth of mobile technology and social media provides tools and opportunities to address healthcare challenges like never before. “This competition is an open event designed to engage and grow Batswana youths’ vision, talent and entrepreneurship and leverage the vast potential impact that mHealth can have on Botswana’s healthcare system,” said Dr. Tshiamo Motshegwa from the University of Botswana who is coordinating the competition.

“The mHealth Innovation Competition is your chance to bring an idea to life that can improve public health and health care delivery in Botswana and save lives,” he added.

Those intending to be part of the competition are advised to register online where they will receive official application instruction which include an application template. Applicants are also required to submit their handwritten mHealth proposal of maximum 10 pages and containing the following: identification of the problem the mHealth will solve, an outline of the idea and how it works as well as a budget and schedule for development of a prototype.

The other stipulation is that photos, diagrams, screenshots, videos and or prototype are not required, but they are highly encouraged in order to clearly share the idea and strengthen one’s application. The intended mHealth innovation must also fit into one of the requirements which categories are; Human health, animal health and food security.

The said mHealth innovation must also utilise one or more of the following mobile technology functions, organisers say: voice, sms, image/video capture, barcode or QR code scanning, GPS, internet access, computing and acess to social networks.

They should contribute to improvement of Ministry of Health programs in order to be relevant and qualify for the P125 000.00 (About $15 560) grand prize which is in the offing.

The competition is open to all Batswana youth and youth living in Botswana with a valid resident permit aged between 15 to 35 years who include artists, engineers, linguists, scientists, employed and unemployed like. Teams can consist of 1-5 members and 50% of the team members must be Batswana. “The more diverse the team, the stronger the application will be, for example a team consisting of a computer science major, a nurse and a philosophy major will be stronger than a team consisting of just computer science majors, said a release from the organisers. Extra considerations will be given to teams with unemployed members.

Participants have been advised that the launch date is the eighth of May 2014, while the deadline to register is June 301th. A date for panel presentation and winners announcement is set for August the 25th.     

Mobile health is the utilization of mobile technology in the practice of medicine and public health. It is relatively broad and young field, but has shown tremendous promise to improve healthcare in the world and Botswana. According to the World Health organisation, the seven proven applications of mHealth are, education and awareness, helpline, diagnostic and treatment support, communication and training for healthcare workers, disease and epidemic outbreak tracking, remote monitoring and remote data collection.           

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