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Health workers are soon to start using their cell phones to track and control the spread of HIV/Aids and other diseases countrywide.This is due to a mobile phone application that has been introduced in Rwanda before any other African country. The application has been introduced under the auspices of Voxiva Inc-US and GSMA. a global trade association for GSM mobile phone operators.

According to a joint press statement released by the two firms, the new mobile software will be in a Java programming language that will run on a wide network of mobile devices.

With the help of this software, medical practitioners will feed in information about patients, their symptoms and medication into their phones, which are then to transfer the data via a General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) mobile based connection into a central database.

They will also be able to use the software to order for medicine, send alerts, download treatment guidelines, training materials and other appropriate information.

It is said that the Voxiva and GSMA, helped by MTN, Rwanda's largest mobile phone service provider have completed the pilot testing of the software in the Eastern Province.

The tests were conducted in collaboration with the Rwanda National Institute of Statistics (NISR), which used the software to capture information on health infrastructures that is normally collected from the field.

"This technology is revolutionising how data is captured from the field," Dr Louis Munyakazi, Director General of NISR was quoted in a statement as saying.

Following the success of the pilot phase, the two firms are planning to work with MTN and other operators to roll-out the mobile phone solution across Rwanda and other African countries in need, such as Nigeria, Tanzania and South Africa.

Rob Conway, CEO of GSMA, reiterated that efforts of the international health community to control pandemics by getting life-saving drugs to those in need, depend heavily on a comprehensive and accurate picture of what is happening on the ground.

"When a disease is spreading rapidly, health authorities need information that is up to-date. Mobile networks which are now widespread in the developing world, are the best and most immediate ways to get them that vital data" he said.

The project budgeted to cost about US$1m (approx Frw550m) both for its setting-up and implementation, is particularly considered valuable to help track communicable diseases.

The new mobile use in the health sector is going to complement the existing Information Technology system of TRAC-net that is jointly managed by the Ministry of Health and the Treatment Research and AIDS Centre (TRAC) to collect, store, retrieve, and disseminate critical program, drug, and patient information mainly related to HIV/AIDS care and treatment.

It has also come at the helm of country's ICT evolution with forthcoming launch of multipurpose 40-metre mast at Karisimbi Mountain.

The New Times