His column begins: “”A decade ago, many people believed that the proliferation of mobile devices in Africa would mean a short leap to digital empowerment. It didn’t. Digital empowerment is a long and ongoing process, and the mere existence of cellular technology does not immediately change how poor people meet their basic needs.””

He goes on to recognize that the situation has improved and we can begin to benefit significantly from the proliferation of smartphones.  “But now, after years of investments, digital empowerment is underway, owing to a confluence of factors, including growing network coverage, more capable devices, and an expanding catalogue of applications. As more people obtain access to better and cheaper digital technology, an inflection point is eventually reached, at which the benefits of providing digitally services like banking and health care clearly outweigh the costs. Companies are then willing to make the investments required to build new systems, and customers are able to accept the transition costs of adopting new behaviors.” he says.

What the Success of mHealth depends on

Gates believes that digital access to medical care, or mobile health (mHealth) is an area that has been slow to emerge because it is difficult to create a large platform and then convince everyone in the healthcare system that it is worth using. “If some health workers use cellphones to send information to a central database, but others do not see the value, the digital system is incomplete – and thus just as flawed as the current paper system.” he says.

He also praises some existing projects, the most promising being Motech, which is focused on maternal and childcare in Ghana.

His final point is: “”This is the dream, but it works only if frontline workers are inputting data, health ministries are acting on it, and patients are using the information that they receive on their phones. A decade ago, people said that this would happen quickly. It didn’t, because the pieces just were not there. Now they are starting to come into place.”

See the full article at: Project Syndicate