GAVI partners with Vodacom to improve health through mobile tech in Africa

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Telecoms operator Vodacom has partnered with public-private health group GAVI Alliance in a move expected to ensure health initiatives in Africa are integrated with mobile technology, especially the use of SMS text messaging.

 The pilot project will begin in Mozambique, where mobile technology will be used to enhance immunisation for children, before being spread out to the rest of the continent.

GAVI Alliance reports that the most effective way to utilise mobile technology is to have mothers alerted on available vaccinations by SMS. Health workers could also access health records and schedule appointments using their phones.

The group says it will also implement a system through mobile phones to monitor vaccine stocks.

“We’re committed to identifying viable innovations that can sustainably address the challenges we face in providing life-saving vaccines to all children, no matter where they live,” said GAVI Alliance boss Seth Berkley.

Berkley added that mobile technology offers a cutting edge and has the potential to overcome the difficult challenges in terms of communication from the health centres to mothers about vaccination appointments.

The mobile stock management service is in use in 5,000 clinics across Tanzania. In South Africa, community health workers have also taken advantage of mobile solutions to access and update patient records.

UK Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening supported the initiative. The UK government has also announced its contribution to GAVI, matching Vodafone’s contribution of US$1.5 million.

"One thousand new mobile broadband connections are made every minute in the developing world, which means we have a tremendous opportunity to transform lives in an easily accessible way. Britain is a proud partner in this innovative project from Vodafone and GAVI,” Greening commented.

She said: “Opening up healthcare to people through their mobile phones will increase the take-up of basic treatments that make a huge difference to people's lives and livelihoods."