mHealth Around the World: Part 1

A focus on Opportunities and Challenges in Africa

In the United States, roughly 92% of adults own some type of mobile device. With relative affordability, mobile devices such as tablets and cellphones have become ubiquitous in day-to-day life in America.

However, in many emerging markets such as Africa, mobile devices, access to the electricity needed to keep them charged, and funds to pay for data and minutes are not as readily available. As an innovative solution to rising health care cost and inaccessibility, lack of stable platforms initially poses a challenge to the growth of mHealth in this region.

Despite this challenge, as a market with more than 1.2 billion people, mobile subscription has grown steadily in recent years. Ultimately, mHealth is growing in popularity as an answer to health care problem that introduce portability and cost efficiency.

According to a study conducted by Accenture, “health care challenges in emerging markets are mHealth opportunities”. In order to ensure success in Africa, a developer must:

  1. Enlist the right partner. Unlike the United States with robust health care system and large corporate presence, governments are often the biggest players in developing nations. Therefore, forming a working relationship and obtaining support from applicable health agencies will be one of the most important guarantors of success.
  2. Tailor solutions to the region. Many research often talk about the similarities between emerging market nation. However, under the “emerging market” umbrella, each country’s health care landscape, consumption, and perception of technology and treatment varies. Therefore, it is important to silo each country and come up with a unique strategy rather than a standard one even as each experience provides lessons for subsequent partnerships.
  3. Consider network reliability. Although Africa has experienced large surge in mobile network subscription in recent years, a substantial number of people still struggle with stability in network connections in many regions of the continent. Since this is a long-term issue, a developer must build on past project understanding and continue the work to overcome this barrier.

Keeping these essential principles in mind, there is great opportunity to develop mHealth solutions to health demands in Africa, where some of the most pressing challenges remain.

Nat Tangpipith is originally from Yonkers, NY. She studied civil engineering at Syracuse University and proceeded to work as an engineer in NYC, delivering a variety of designs in bridge rehabilitation and underground utility systems. Passionate about traveling, Nat has been to 15 countries and counting. In her spare time, Nat likes to explore international cuisine with her friends as well as look for new and fun activities to do.