For Rwanda’s population, the country has a relatively low number of doctors. However, during the last decade, the country’s public health conditions have been taking huge leaps forward. Since 2000 the maternal mortality ratio has fallen by 60%, most people are now surviving tuberculosis, many people with AIDS are on antiretroviral drugs, and childhood mortality has dropped by 70%. Furthermore, Paul Farmer, the founder of Partners in Health, an organization that provides medical services to Rwanda and Haiti, said in this NY Times article that, “‘If these gains can be sustained, Rwanda will be the only country in the region on track to meet each of the health-related Millennium Development Goals by 2015.”
What is it about Rwanda that has made the country so successful? Part of the answer lies in the fact that health insurance is very cheap and heavily subsidized by donors, resulting in 98% of Rwandans having medical insurance. Another big part of the answer is Rwanda’s national use of ICTs for doctors. The Rwandan government supports a national system of computerized medical records and village health workers can use text messaging to send medical records to hospitals.
Furthermore, Rwanda’s Treatment and Research Aids Centre (TRAC) has been using ICTs to provide real time information about HIV/AIDS to the entire country. TRACnet is a web and phone based system that provides treatment monthly indicators and information about drug shortages. TRACnet also allows patients to document their conditions and connect with doctors. TRACnet has gained international recognition for its effective use of ICTs.
Rwanda is clearly on the right track with its ICT policy and it seems that the country’s public health conditions will only improve from here. Hopefully other countries will be able to follow Rwanda’s ICT policy model in the and see these vast improvements too.