SMS innovation and dynamic mobile content drives mHealth initiatives in Africa

Last updated: 16 July 2014

It’s unsurprising that the latest mobile health services, based on smartphones and the latest M2M technology, are making waves in the USA and Europe, changing the lives of people through remote health monitoring, digital pill reminders, and so on… but who would have thought that “mHealth” would reach Africa so quickly?!

How? Instead of M2M technology and smartphone channels, prohibitive due to their cost and the relative scarcity of Africa’s mobile data infrastructure, it’s actually the standard SMS channel, enhanced with interactive features, along with handset dynamic menus that deliver mHealth content and services.

This really demonstrates the versatility of the platform. Across Africa, even without broadband data access, mobiles have become the default infrastructure for banking and managing businesses as well as the day-to-day communication we take for granted. The pan African mHealth Initiative (PAMI) led by the GSMA, brings together stakeholders from the mobile and health industries, as well as from the public sector and creates a mobile ecosystem that aims to improve maternal and child health and nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa.  At Gemalto, we’re privileged to be among the launching members of this essential initiative.

Initially going live across Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia this September, PAMI will help a generation of African innovators develop scalable, commercially viable services that can save lives. It’ll help growing projects reach whole new communities.

That means connecting new mHealth services with vulnerable groups like the 15 million pregnant women across these regions, sending mHealth tips by SMS or chatting with a healthcare specialist through interactive SMS. It means projects like Bright Simons’ mPedigree Network, which verifies and prevents counterfeit medicines. Check out the mhealth tracker for a broad range of examples already out there.

Gemalto will help bring mHealth and nutrition information services to the masses through its advanced SmartMessage interactive messaging solution, making use of its existing relationships with mobile operators across the region. The aim is to simplify the relationships between patients and health stakeholders to deliver targeted nutritional and health information and advice via mobile phones.

If we get it right, we’ll simplify the relationships between patients and those who care for them. And we’ll increase the targeted delivery of nutrition and health advice in a way that makes a real difference. With PAMI, we are helping ‘mobile first’ become ‘mobile best’.

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