Many major African telcos are joining forces with health authorities to launch a pan-African mobile health platform

Quick and easy access to public health information is key to dealing with any healthcare crisis and this has proven true on a massive scale with regards to the coronavirus pandemic. For many countries around the world, this information will primarily be delivered via the internet, but this strategy is much less effective in regions like Africa, where internet penetration is sorely lacking.
However, Africa’s mobile penetration is comparatively greater, making it a far more effective platform for spreading health information.
In order to help conquer the lack of access to health information, a new initiative named the Africa Communications Information Platform (ACIP) is being developed, based on a partnership between a host of African telcos, health authorities, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
The ACIP will allow users to access local health services and medical advice, as well as a symptom checker, with the participating telcos – which include MTN, Orange, Airtel, Vodafone, Vodacom, Safaricom, and Ethio Telecom – agreeing to waive the texting fees. The anonymous data gathered from this discourse will be analysed by AI to generate insights for national and regional COVID-19 task forces.
The first phase of the programme began at the end of last month, with 23 countries included, with coverage reaching around 80% of Africa’s mobile subscribers.
Phase two, scheduled to begin in a few months, plans to expand the service to include economic and humanitarian projects.
Generating data for use in tackling COVID-19 has been a hot topic since the emergence of the pandemic earlier this year. Telcos in the EU quickly agreed to share data with central health authorities to help clamp down on the disease. Many have since launched their own tracing apps with various degrees of success – Germany and Ireland, for example, have both seen good success with their app implementation, while the UK’s has gone completely awry, being exposed as poorly functioning as well as containing numerous data privacy issues.
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