As was made evident during class discussion last week, there is a lot of controversy over whether e-Health and telemedicine are the best ways for countries to currently spend money developing. One of the major issues many people had with it was that there was a lack of basic infrastructure.. i.e. poor or no electricity/internet.
Through my research on Mali this semester I have found that they are fairly far behind and represent a very low spot in the digital divide. For example, I could not even find a national ICT plan. However, they have surprisingly been able to accomplish the teleradiology. This project aimed to connect rural health centers with the larger hospitals in the Timbuktu, Mopti, and Sikasso. They established internet connections that successfully enabled specialists in the hospitals to make more accurate determinations of x-ray images. The idea for this project is based on the statistic that “in general half of the generalist doctors make mistakes in interpreting an x-ray, compared to only 5% of the radiologists.”
Although there were some struggles along the way, such as unexpected additional costs and lack of training programs, these have been fixed in the current model for the program. Now it is possible for people living in some rural areas to get much quicker and reliable information/results. Furthermore, there is now established internet connectivity between the rural areas and the major health/business centers in the surrounding areas. This should help to decrease the digital divide and encourage others to utilize the internet and increase the amount of internet users in the rural villages.
Source: Teleradiology in Mali
In a project that was first announced in the summer of 2011, female community health workers (CHW) will be using cell phones to help track, prevent, and treat malaria in parts of Bambako, Mali. The expected outcomes include :
- A mobile application in local language for data collection
- 50 community healthworkers trained on mobile data collection
- 10 medical staff trained on using ICT and data analysis
- Child mortality in the two target areas reduced by 30%
Additionally, each person is supposed to be linked to their own client number that can be tracked by the health centers and used by the CHW on follow-up visits. It’s important to be using native women who are already accepted ant trusted in their communities and this should create a much higher outcome of patient information. These women will also have the advantage of being able to ensure the safety of the program
and encourage people who would not typically visit a health facility to do so. It is hoped that this will also decrease the cost of malaria prevention because it will be much quicker to collect information (by using the CHWs) and easier to synthesize information (using SMS which can be input into a system much easier than by using paper methods).
My concerns with the use of cell phones deal with what we have discussed in class and the articles we have been reading this past week. If these are poor neighborhoods, how do we ensure that the cell phones can stay charged, or even have the capacity to send the messages (is there service available in these areas). Additionally, from previous research, I know that the use of individualized numbers is not always the best idea because people lose track of them, especially if they are not used to them and they have six children, all of whom have different IDs.
Although electricity coverage is limited in most parts of Mali, a village outside of Tominian has found a way to make use of cell phones to increase income. A village that typically only sells timber products-which can be a problem in certain times of year or in times of unexpected weather changes- has recently begun to sell non-timber forest products. These include fruits and nuts which can “compensate for a poor crop harvest.” These products are advertised in newspapers and on the radio with the help of a local NGO, Sahel Eco to reach a larger group of potential buyers.
Since there is a limited amount of access to electricity, the cell phones are charged using solar panels. The villagers contact people from the NGO who publicize the available products to audiences in Ségou, Mopti, and Bamako, which are must more urban centers. This would not have been possible without the use of cell phones to contact the workers at Sahel Eco. Not only does this give them access to buyers of their new variety of products, but it gives them options of who to sell to, which will result in higher incomes for the villagers.
This it been a somewhat strenuous task technologically, and could be simplified with more advanced technology, these small improvements are improving the village in many ways. Not only is it increasing the incomes and creating connections for producers throughout the country, it is also giving the villagers a greater appreciation for the entire forest environment they live in, which will hopefully cause it to be sustained easier.