ICTs and public health: Reaching the last mile in resource constrained environments

19 Mar 2018 11:00h - 13:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports from the WSIS Forum 2018]

The session dealt with the ways in which information and communications technology (ICT) can be used to address health-related challenges in Africa and India. The first speaker and the moderator of the session, Mr Joshua P. Levens, manager at the Advocacy and Resource Mobilisation Partner Committee, RBM – Partnership to End Malaria, described the rationale behind the Malaria partnership which was founded over 20 years ago. Levens emphasised the importance of surveillance in dealing with the disease. Without surveillance it is impossible to monitor the scope of malaria, to provide effective treatment, and to prevent its spread. He described several challenges that prevent such monitoring: poor infrastructure, isolated communities, lack of sufficient human resources, lack of medical stuff, poor communication infrastructure, and lack of information. To address these issues, Levens described possible ICT solutions that the partnership deals with: using international mapping facilities, deploying drones for medicine delivery for hard-to-reach sites, creating data warehouse for interoperable performance assessment and management, and building community service information systems.

Mr Sujay Santra, founder and CEO of iKure Techsoft, explained the importance of providing the last mile medical solutions to rural communities in India. Given the scarcity of trained medical staff in these communities (1 doctor for every 1700 people), effective ICT solutions can make a difference. Yet, these solutions need to fit the unique characteristics of rural communities in India. For example, while using smartphones to solve medical problems proved useful in the USA and Europe, in India the use of this technology encountered difficulties within the communities. In his presentation, Santra provided several examples of the solutions offered by his company. One such solution is training village women to function as community health workers. These women capture the patients’ vitals and enter the data into special cloud-based apps linked to the hospitals. Based on the data and the input from doctors, community health workers provide information and counsel people in these communities.

Mr Martin Lukac, CTO and co-founder of Nexleaf Analytics, addressed how ICT solutions dealing with remote temperature monitoring (RTM), can help solve problems related to vaccines. According to Lukac, for vaccines to be effective, they need to be stored at a proper temperature. Managing and maintaining the refrigerating system, however, is challenging due to electricity infrastructure problems and the medical staff’s lack of knowledge concerning the system. The RTM solution monitors the refrigerators in real time and sends information to the technicians when problems occur. Then, the technicians contact the medical staff on site and instruct them how to fix the problem, thus solving the problem immediately without the expense involved in sending out a team of technicians. This solution has increased the effectiveness of the refrigerating systems in 74% of cases and provides useful information in further purchases of refrigerating equipment. Most importantly, according to Lukac, this system also helps in getting the medical staff informed and involved in the topic.


By Efrat Daskal