Kenya: Qualcomm, Telcos Implement Wireless Health Care With CDMA 2000 Technology

Telecoms

Qualcomm has a scheme to empower rural communities in Africa in the area of health care, through the use of its 3G wireless technologies initiative that was launched in 2005.

In collaboration with the Provincial Medical Office of Nairobi, Communications Commission of Kenya, Telkom Kenya, Axesstel, and RTI International, it has announced their plan to implement a wireless health care project in Kenya that will improve HIV/AIDS treatment at the Kasarani Health Centre in Nairobi. The project harnesses the benefits of advanced 3G wireless event technology to make the supply of antiretroviral medicines (ARVs) more efficient.

HIV/AIDS is one of Kenya's most pressing health concerns and offering antiretroviral treatment (ART) is a key component of the government's strategy to reduce HIV/AIDS-related morbidity and mortality. Nairobi currently has more than 20 ART sites under the supervision of the Provincial Medical Office (PMO).

The initial project coverage is focused on 16 sites that receive their antiretroviral medicines exclusively from the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA). Information and telecommunications capabilities at the ART centers are limited to VHF radios with no official telephone line connections.

"A reliable, uninterrupted supply of ARVs is crucial to the success of antiretroviral therapy," said Dr. Samuel Ochola, provincial director of public health and sanitation, Nairobi. "Our current supply management system is characterized by tedious and time consuming manual maintenance of records, which is a heavy burden considering the shortage of human resources. Automating the process will enhance the record keeping and reporting processes and help us provide more efficient care to those affected by HIV/AIDS."

Through its Wireless Reach initiative, Qualcomm says it is working together with project participants to equip the ART centers with computers, software and wireless broadband connectivity based on CDMA2000 revolution, a technology to facilitate the online communication and transmission of reports. The project is also providing technical support, training and capacity building to ensure long-term sustainability and promote scalability, Qualcomm said in a statement.

Describing the process to achieving the feat, Qualcomm said health centers will receive computers and support equipment needed for wireless connectivity. The computers, it added, will be connected to Telkom Kenya's Orange Broadband network, based on CDMA2000 revolution. The upgrade will facilitate online reporting to KEMSA and improve coordination between the health care centers, the districts and the PMO, the statement said.

"In countries like Kenya, with the challenges implied in the expansion of fixed-line broadband networks, 3G wireless technology allows us to overcome these constraints," said Dominque Saint Jean, chief executive officer of Telkom Kenya. "We serve emerging markets and are committed to the goal of universal connectivity," said Clark Hickock, chief executive officer of Axesstel. "We are excited to be able to provide assistance for such a worthy cause and work with Telkom Kenya to supply an innovative communications solution for this project. Axesstel's next-generation, feature-rich fixed wireless voice and broadband data devices have proven value to advanced wireless network operators throughout the world. We look forward to being a part of this Wireless Reach program and delivering our valuable service to this region."

The project implementation is being managed by RTI along with the PMO and will make use of open source software designed by RTI, which is derived from the manual recording system for managing antiretrovirals throughout Kenya. The new system will be adapted for use in the health centers. Capacity building will also be provided for trainers who will be responsible for teaching PC skills and the new software to health care workers at the ART sites.

The long-term goal is to produce a software and communication system that is locally sustainable and scalable to other health centers within Nairobi and other provinces. Ultimately, the same system could be extended to manage all pharmaceuticals.

Independent Lagos