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GSMA rolling out of mHealth services across Africa

GSMA rolling out of mHealth services across Africa.

A GSMA rollout of mHealth services targeted at women and children is set to kick-start in Ghana.

Speaking at a media roundtable, director of health at the GSMA, Dr Craig Friderichs, said the launch of the m-Health services in Ghana will coincide with the United Nations General Assembly.

Through its ‘Mobile for Development mHealth’ programme the GMSA has launched a new cross-ecosystem partnership with a number of private companies.

The GSMA has partnered with MTN, Gemalto, Samsung, Omega Diagnostics, Mobenzi and Mobilium to connect mobile and health industries to roll out effective mHealth services across sub-Saharan Africa, said Friderichs.

The GSMA has also tracked more than 1,100 registered mHealth services but very few demonstrate any scale sustainability or significant impact on the health system, Friderichs stated.

However, through its cross-ecosystem partnership programme the GSMA sees an addressable market of 15.5 million women and children across the seven countries in total.

“These mHealth services are not dependent on an application, although we demonstrate on the Samsung device and in an application environment we are making the services available through MTN and Gemalto for SIM card reach, USSD, mobisite, and application,” said Friderichs.

According to Friderichs, the context of the partnership is centred around the millennium development goals (MDGs) particularly those with a specific focus on maternal and unborn child health.

Phase one of the GSMA initiative is going to be rolled out before the end of the year in another six priority countries namely Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.

Phase two is expected to commence in 2015, and will incorporate additional partners and services, addressing other countries including Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.

“We believe that mobile and, information and communications technologies (ICT) as a sector has a fundamental role to play in addressing health services,” Friderichs said.

With electronics company Samsung also onboard, Thabiet Allie, head of content and services for the African Regional Headquarters at Samsung Electronics said the company has identified levels of engagement with the partnership.

Firstly, Samsung plans to offer better pricing for devices, and secondly pre-embed a ‘smart health app’ on all smartphones across sub-Saharan Africa. The app will be available for download from the Google play store.

In addition, Samsung will include information about the mHealth services initiative in all their future marketing initiatives, said Allie.

Meanwhile, companies like MTN and Gemalto will make access to mHealth services available directly to basic phone and feature phones users.

MTN chief commercial officer Pieter Verkade said the mobile operator will make the services available to its subscribers at zero rate payment framework.

Friderichs further explained that because this is a non-exclusive mobile ecosystem partnership they can’t commit to a no pay system, but the commitments will vary from partner to partner.

“What we will do; however, is ensure there is a shared value commitment model,” he added.

He concluded by calling on to action health, mobile health and development sector.

“Now that we have created the infrastructure for delivery and disrupted the commercial, technical and partnership ecosystem we want to work with local partners to take this up in country and in the region of Africa,” Friderichs stated.

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