February 22, 2009
Mobile Phones to Serve as Doctors in Developing Countries
"There are 2.2 billion mobile phones in the developing world, 305 million computers but only 11 million hospital beds," said Terry Kramer, strategy director at British operator Vodafone at the Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona this week. That's why Vodafone, along with the United Nations and the Rockerfeller Foundation's mHealth Alliance have banded together to advance the use of mobile phones to better aid those in need of healthcare in the developing world. The New York Times reports.
In a recent study released by the UN and Vodafone titled, "mHealth for Development: The Opportunity of Mobile Technology for Healthcare in the Developing World," over 50 of these types of initiatives throughout 26 countries were discussed. The biggest adopters of mobile technology were India with 11 projects and South Africa and Uganda with 6 each.
The new alliance wants to guide governments, NGOs, and mobile firms on how mobile technology can be used to help save lives.
Examples of the mHealth projects included:
-- Sending mobile phone owners updates on diseases via SMS.
-- Letting health workers in Uganda log data on mobile devices from the field.
-- In South Africa, the SIMpill is a sensor-equipped pill bottle with a SIM card that informs doctors whether patients are taking their tuberculosis medicine.
-- In Uganda, a multiple-choice quiz about HIV/AIDS was sent to 15,000 subscribers inviting them to answer questions and seek tests. Those who completed the quiz were given free airtime minutes. At the end of the quiz, a final SMS encouraged participants to go for voluntary testing. The number of people who did so increased from 1000 to 1400 over a 6-week period.
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