IICD has been implementing technology-enabled health innovations since 1996, and has seen many changes over the years. Technology evolution, increased availability of local capacity to design and support tech solutions, pull factors at national level calling for data and data-driven solutions, and the ability and willingness of healthcare service providers to finance tech-support services, are all influencing the way IICD and its African health partners see the future viability in eHealth services provision.
“The question is how do we achieve scale and quality assurance across countries while being driven by responsiveness to individual markets’ needs? That’s what AeHS International is here for. It aims to harness the value provided by local companies experienced in deploying and servicing eHealth solutions to healthcare providers, while ensuring quality control, software development and operational support management across the various local ventures and countries joining this pan-African initiative”, said van der Velden.
Over the past years, the hospital management information system AfyaPro, the first product developed by AeHS, has been implemented in hospitals to tackle the lack of accurate and timely data, an issue faced by many African hospitals. Examples documented in Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, show that since the implementation of AfyaPro more costs have been recovered per-patient, fewer patients are being lost to billing, and overall revenue has grown.
Despite the reported success at facility level, this combination of large numbers of deployments, with very needs-driven local tailoring of the systems, has led to challenges in sustaining the quality and value of the solutions for client facilities over time. “Where deployments and technology support staff have mainly been financed by donor budgets, once the funding period is over, salaries for on-site tech staff are often not integrated in the overall organizational budget, leading to their dismissals and loss of critical 1st line operational and maintenance support. This ultimately leads to usage going down, systems becoming outdated, and so forth.”
On the software development front, diverse approaches have been tried out along the way, from financing programmers to work directly with facilities to outsourcing to software development companies in other countries like India, which have brought about more challenges than positive results. As IICD returned to investing directly in programmers associated with the various solutions, it needed to find a way to create co-ownership of the solutions, ensure quality management across the different deployments and provide financially sustainable implementation support. This led to the creation of AeHS – a joint venture between IICD and local e-health and technology providers.
“Under this model, hospitals and facilities pay their national service provider monthly fees for technical support services. A percentage of which goes to AeHS International, for access to new software updates, 3rd line technical support, training and certification renewals, and access to research and expertise from other countries“, said van der Velden. “Our first experiences are promising. There can be new challenges ahead but we feel that with the structure we have now in place, we will be able to overcome them while creating value for both healthcare provider clients as well as national enterprises.”
With the news about the platform generating a lot of interest in local and international news and media outlets, TizaaWorks has started to offer access to free courses to develop the youth’s professional skills.
“Technology can empower young people to make a vital contribution to their community and our world. We hope that this platform serves as a bridge, connecting Ghana’s young people to the tools, resources, and people they need to find the fulfilling careers they deserve", said Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft.
Although there are several employment resources for Ghanaian youth, many do not know where to find them. TizaaWorks aggregates the best, ensuring access to rich e-content and exposing youth to the various learning and training organisations that can help them realise their career aspirations.
- Plan your career – career counselling, job market info and stats
- Get trained – mentor matching, IT training, entrepreneurship, CV writing, soft & language skills
- Find a job – job matching tool
- Entrepreneurs – Start-up training, funding tools, social entrepreneurship and free-lance opportunities.
- Get engaged – Community-based networking platform for users to share ideas and volunteer opportunities
Gallup World Poll data indicates that African governments currently only employ around 14 million people aged 15-29 which corresponds to about 5% of Africa’s population in this ‘youthful’ age group.
In Ghana, many young people who cannot find employment in the public or private sector end up working in the informal sector in low quality jobs. Research conducted by the African Development Bank shows that it is very difficult to get out of the informal sector, unless one pursues entrepreneurship opportunities. Private companies are instrumental to curbing youth unemployment, but at the same time, youth face a shortage of skills. Microsoft’s aim through the platform is to match the right skills to appropriate jobs, and equip youth with the necessary training, tools and knowledge required to succeed in their desired job.
In a technologically-driven world, softer skills are also often overlooked. The platform offers hundreds of soft skills training courses to equip youth with the best possible opportunity to land their dream role.
“The TizaaWorks platform is critical for expanding IICD’s impact in supporting Ghanaian youth in smart learning, working, and earning. Thanks to TizaaWorks, our programs that build market-driven digital skills and help youth find employment and start their own IT-related businesses can reach out to a much wider audience, beyond our physical presence,” says Martine Koopman, Ghana Country Manager, Global Advisory Services Manager for IICD. “With the current online platform, physical programs and the upcoming mobile version of TizaaWorks, any young person in Ghana will be able to access information and services enabling them to become more employable.”
Employability Platforms are being rolled out in collaboration with key local partners across Middle East and Africa as part of Microsoft’s YouthSpark and 4Afrika Initiatives with a plan to have 25 platforms across the region by the end of FY15 including thirteen in Africa: Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, and Nigeria within Africa. Microsoft aims to reach a target of seven million youth across the Middle East and Africa, and create 96, 000 job opportunities and 200,000 new entrepreneurs by the end of 2015.
Microsoft in Ghana
Microsoft has been operating in Ghana for 10 years, continues to recognize the long-term growth opportunities in the country and we have made significant investments to date in Ghana especially in education, the youth and the communities.
Microsoft has seen tremendous growth in broadband availability and internet penetration in Ghana, which has the highest mobile penetration rate on the continent (an estimated 112%, according to ITU). Microsoft is excited to play an active role in this transformation, using technology to lead economic and social transformation in the country.
Through its programs in Ghana, Microsoft has:
- trained 15,000 teachers
- reached over one million students
- created over 1,800 jobs, and
- supported 35 successful startups in Ghana.
One of Microsoft’s core projects in the country is its partnership with the Ghanaian Ministry of Education and the British Council, to set up ICT hubs in local schools and communities to accelerate digital literacy across the country. Falling under a regional project called Badiliko, 17 digital hubs have been created in Ghana and Microsoft has trained 26 local Master Trainers who are serving as Digital Ambassadors and School Leader Facilitators in the hubs, helping over 1,700 people in Ghana become trained to date.
IICD in Ghana
IICD is an international expert organization, which specializes in leveraging technology for social and economic development.
By connecting people to sustainable technology, IICD makes it possible for people to learn, work and earn in a smart way. IICD’s approach in ICT4D is based on bottom-up innovation that involves all critical stakeholders, including customers. This approach developed over the past 20 years ensures high adoption rates and sustainability of technology solutions.
IICD offers sustainable ICT solutions and advisory services to accelerate development through supporting smart learning, working and earning in the following areas of impact:
- Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship
- Healthcare delivery
- Agricultural value chains
In Ghana IICD has been working for 17 years. During the last 5 years our programs directly benefited over 6,000 people and impacted 362,500 Ghanaians.
The article has been published in the April issue (Vol. 21, No. 3) of the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare. The worldwide scope of the journal’s contributions offers “a unique perspective on how different countries and health systems are using new technology in healthcare”.
To access the online version of the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare click here.
In Mali, health personnel are poorly spread between the capital and other regions. More than half of the socio-sanitary staff is situated in Bamako. Moreover, there is a shortage of health specialists, particularly in the regions outside the capital.
The telemedicine programme IKON was set up in Mali in 2005 to overcome the lack of specialist medical expertise in rural areas. At the time, ten out of the eleven Malian radiologists were based in the capital Bamako. IKON was implemented by IICD together with CERTES, a Malian medical research organisation.
The study concludes that IKON presents a new model of implementing telemedicine in a developing context, which moves away from cross-border medicine and towards developing in-country expertise networks. The study shows that the use of teleradiology contributed to:
- Improvement of the regional doctors’ diagnostic ability
- Improvement of the prescribed treatment
- Reduction of the need for patients to travel
- Reduction of professional isolation for regional doctors
- Improved learning opportunities for regional doctors
“The teleradiology programme connected the University Hospital in Bamako to all seven regional hospitals in Mali and one private health clinic. Between 2005 and 2013, X-ray and mammogram images from 5628 patients were read by teleradiology. Radiologists provided the sole diagnosis for 29% of cases (i.e. the referrer did not make a diagnosis) and altered the regional doctor's diagnosis in 12% of cases. The proportion of cases for which the regional doctor gave no diagnosis decreased from 93% to 24% over the same period, indicating an increase in the doctors' confidence and incentive to test their own diagnosis. The percentage of cases for which regional doctors made an inaccurate diagnosis decreased to 3% in 2013.” (J Telemed Telecare April 2015)
In 2013/2014 a research was conducted to find out to what extent the telemedicine service had increased the rural doctors’ diagnostic ability. Data was analysed for the years 2005-2013.
According to IKON’s programme Manager, Dr Mohamed Sangaré, the IICD model of working through local partners has been critical. “IICD played an important role in supporting IKON’s methodology and development. IICD facilitated an initial meeting of stakeholders, supported ongoing discussions between stakeholders, increased the capacity of teams and hospital staff through training, financed planning and implementation of the pilot phase, and promoted the project in other countries and to other organisations. Implementation was all managed locally, increasing local ownership and sustainability.” (Lydia Tanner - IKON impact study, 2014)
“The IKON network demonstrates the catalytic impact of investing in individuals and of ensuring their ownership of a project. Prof Touré and Dr Sangaré both emphasised the positive role IICD played in giving them freedom to develop the tele-radiology network, which has ensured that the programme really does ‘belong to Mali’,” said Lydia Tanner of Jigsaw Consult.