Yesterday’s post outlined how SMEs can utilise technology to solve the challenges African farmers face. Today’s blog will explore technology’s effect on health. First, we praise Kentons Limited, a pharmaceutical, surgical and veterinary products supplier for embracing Internet marketing by not only building a website, but for also opening Twitter and Facebook accounts. It took seventh position in the 2011 Top 100 Mid-Sized Companies awards. And another thing: Kentons is a Kisumu-based SME with a web and social media presence. So all Nairobi, Mombasa and Nakuru-based SME owners have no excuse for being MIA from the Web!
The Web’s greatest contribution to the health/pharmaceutical/veterinary industries has been the easy availability of information about diseases, drugs, livestock, research, etc. As long as you have Internet access, you no longer have to ask around about a particular health issue, just type in the keyword/s on a search engine and the answers are displayed on the search engine results page. The Web has also enabled people, especially victims of terminal illnesses like cancer, to form communities where they support one another. The Africa Cancer Foundation, launched in July 2011, is one local example. The foundation is also present in the social media space having opened Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Kenyan hospitals have also established a web presence that has lent a dosage of warmth into what are otherwise regarded as cold places. Kenyatta National Hospital, East Africa’s biggest referral hospital, has a website and multiple Facebook pages, an inconsistency that damages the brand’s personality. I won’t even comment about the website’s layout. However, Nairobi Hospital has done well to own both its website and Facebook page by regularly updating content on both platforms.
For city residents, traffic congestion, demanding workplace assignments, the rising cost of living, parenting, and poor eating habits, etc endanger our health. Proof of Kenyans’ poor health status can be shown by the 2011 United Nations Population Fund report that indicates Kenyans’ average life expectancy is 58 years, up from 55 years last year. Naturally, we start getting worried about factors such as weight and blood sugar levels. The Web offers some relief from visiting the doctor. Just visit a site such as the Mayo Clinic and get calculate your body mass index (BMI) using the application tool. In America, mobile phones will soon become ultra-sound machines when a device is attached to them, potentially benefitting pregnant women who experience pain and are far away from the nearest hospital. Technology ‘s help is also being sought to enable patients’ medical records become easily accessible online. Microsoft, the world’s largest software company, is in this field already, though the issue of privacy may hinder patients from uploading their records online because of the likelihood of using these data to discriminate against people for jobs, for example.
How can technology fight the fake drug menace in Kenya? The World Health Organisation reports that in 2005, approximately 30% of the drugs in the Kenyan drug market were fake, and worth approximately $130 million (Kshs 13 billion) annually. Recently, Orange, a mobile-phone service provider and M- pedigree, an anti-counterfeit drug NGO, launched a free SMS service early this month to fight counterfeit drugs in Kenya and Cameroon. To know whether a drug is real or fake, Orange Kenya consumers have to SMS the serial number on the medicine tablet to 1393, and then await feedback. The rest of the mobile networks operating in Kenya should urgently also extend this benefit to their subscribers.
How else can technology assist Africa solve its healthcare challenges? We welcome your suggestions below. Thank you.