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Harnessing communications tech to prevent spread of disease in Africa

A person uses an electronic device, during the GSMA's 2023 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain on March 1, 2023. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

A person uses an electronic device, during the GSMA's 2023 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain on March 1, 2023. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Published Mar 5, 2023


Barcelona - One of the major benefits for Africa that emerged from the 2023 edition of the Mobile World Congress was the HealthConnekt Africa initiative, intended to reduce the spread of disease on the continent.

The initiative was the product of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the MWC organiser, the GSMA and the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) at a sideline event at this year’s MWC.

The purpose was to create a framework for a range of priorities including digital strategy, policy and governance of communications technologies to address health-care challenges.

The GSMA hope that the HealthConnekt Africa initiative, which seeks to connect all health facilities and workforce in Africa to the internet by 2030, will provide the connectivity needed to eventually aid in the fight against the spread of diseases that plague the continent.

The GSMA said the initiative would start with a small group of countries of the AU which will see upgrades to health facilities connected to the internet and health workers equipped with smart devices, allowing them to improve the quality of care provided to their clients through access to vital online resources.

Angela Wamola, the head of the GSMA for Sub-Saharan Africa, said mobile growth across the region had been phenomenal over the past two decades. More needed to be done to harness the power of the technology across Africa’s health-care sector.

“Bringing together expertise and resources will help establish a powerful new infrastructure providing African health-care workers access to the information they need in a timely fashion and the intelligence necessary to help prevent the spread of disease across international borders,” Wamola said.

Member states of the AU and partners of the initiative are also expected to work together on promoting home-grown health-tech innovations while creating a platform for public health and tech communities to accelerate the digital transformation of the health sector in Africa.

Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, the Africa CDC director, said connectivity and digital innovation were at the core of Africa CDC’s digital transformation strategy.

“Access to the internet is a key enabler of our vision to extend universal quality care to all by 2030. We look forward to working with members of the GSMA to bridge the digital divide that still limits the reach and impact of our health workforce,” Ouma said.

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