3 October 2019 | 2 minutes

In Africa, we want to be part of the creation of a digital world, where technology underpins everything we do.

To get there, we start by finding ways to overcome our own unique challenges. Where stumbling blocks are too high, we weave a path around them.  We get there, but our route is different to the route the rest of the world takes. The African approach to going digital can be seen in the way we handle healthcare.

The African approach to going digital can be seen in the way we handle healthcare.

It is no secret that medical care in Africa is not as accessible as it is on neighbouring continents. It is also no secret that Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies.  Our approach to going digital is mobile, because mobile works for us. According to the GSMA’s 2019 report on the Mobile Economy of Sub-Saharan Africa, half of the population will subscribe to mobile services by 2025. For this reason, we implement and support digitally-driven healthcare initiatives as part of our contribution towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal of achieving good health and well-being. Part of the R1 Billion MTN has invested in various CSI initiatives since 2001 goes toward making mobile healthcare in Africa possible.

In Cameroon, for example, a solution was required to reduce the time it takes to diagnose HIV in new-born babies. Early infant diagnosis is crucial to the success of treatment for babies born with HIV. The MTN Cameroon Foundation and the Clinton Health Access Initiative worked together to create the SMS Printer for Life project. The solution ensures that results are delivered on the same day as the test, by transmitting information between laboratories and health facilities instantly.  MTN’s coverage in Cameroon enables the connectivity for results to be sent via text message to a printer at a clinic, and to the phones of the infants’ caregivers. HIV positive babies can therefore be enrolled in a treatment program as soon as possible. Since the initiative was launched, more than 11 800 lab results have been delivered and 700 healthcare facilities in the country currently use the solution.

Approximately 10,000 nursing students have benefited from 10 multimedia centres in South Africa.

As technology continues to make a positive impact on the medical field, it becomes essential for those working in healthcare to be digitally savvy. In South Africa, MTN piloted a programme at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital to provide digital tools to nurses in training. Since the programme began in 2014, 10 multimedia centres have been installed at nurse training institutions. These multimedia centres feature computers and printers, smart boards and internet connections, and has benefited approximately 10 000 nursing students. The students now have access to online learning materials which would otherwise have been difficult, and sometimes impossible, to come by.

Lecturers and students are also provided with computer literacy training, so that everyone at the institution can benefit. Lecturers are now taking a digital approach to updating curricula and teaching resources, as well as conducting research and grading student assessments. The digitization of the work has made a great impact on the student nurses, so much so that the institution’s pass rate has gone from below 65% to 94% in the years that MTN has become involved in their digital needs.

By taking a digital approach to healthcare challenges in Africa, we are working toward making the continent’s population healthier, so that they can become unstoppable!

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