2015 Youth mHealth Innovation competition now on

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

Botswana’s 2015 mHealth Innovation Competition has been launched with much promise from those taking part to excel beyond limit. This is the third competition in a series of such competitions organised by the Botswana Innovation Hub and other stakeholders who include Orange Botswana, University of Botswana, Unicef, Botswana-UPPEN Partnership, CADLINE, SAIS (Southern African Innovation Support Programme), PEPFAR (The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) and the Ministry of Health.

BUP's Informatics Program has been spearheading mHealth and mHealth capacity building for over seven years now, starting with a simple pilot study taking photos of skin lesions with phones and sending to dermatologists.

According to Dr Andrew Steenhoff, Associate Country Director (Botswana UPenn Partnership) now BUP's mHealth portfolio has expanded to include over 15 projects and capacity building initiatives. The largest and most notable mHealth projects are: mHealth for Telemedicine (AKA: “Kgonafalo” Telemedicine) in the specialties of Women’s Health, Radiology, Dermatology, and Oral Medicine with MoH and Orange mHealth for medical education with UB and Orange- equipping medical students and doctors with tablet loaded with medical information resources and point-of-care tools.

“The mHealth Innovation Competition is one of BUP’s favourite mHealth capacity building initiatives due to the increasing number of partners involved and the energy and innovation that comes from local youth engagement.” 

“While the Informatics program is committed to mentoring the winners seen today, our program has also mentored several additional groups who earned top-20 placements in the competitions and expressed the passion and drive to pursue their innovations beyond the competition.  This has been inspirational for us as well at the rest of the Steering Committee partners to do our best to continue to support these innovations,” said Dr Andrew Steenhoff.

He added that mHealth was a fast moving sector and it was important for all stakeholders to continue to come together to share knowledge, lessons learned, and to build relationships and grow these projects for Botswana.  “It is great to see so much continued interest, energy, and high-level support for this important and growing field in Botswana.” 

A representative for BIH, Tigele Mokobi, said: “in Botswana, like the rest of Africa, the smart phone has surpassed the desktop with the mobile technology (ICT) penetration ranked second in Africa at 1.34 mobile subscriptions per capita for Botswana This scenario presents opportunities for mobile commerce, mobile banking, mobile government including mobile health.”

Botswana Innovation Hubs has a mandate to develop advanced Science and Technology innovation capital and activities by attracting innovators, channelling the requisite support services and conditioning the local investment climate.

Mokobi added that “This mandate cannot be executed in isolation, we are happy to have partnered with reputable institutions and companies to help us achieve this mandate.

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 and our combined efforts here are intended to do just that – improve healthcare through the use of mobile technology.” 

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