Key observations at Kenya mHealth ecosystem meetup

By John Kieti
m:lab
  Published 6th October 2012
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Samsung Kenya has partnered with m:Lab East Africa to hold a series of mhealth focused Wireless Wednesday meetups.

The first of these meetups was held on Wednesday 3rd October at m:lab’s premises and was themed “Understanding Kenya’s mHealth Ecosystem”.

The meetup was attended by representatives from Health NGOs, Government, Phone Manufacturers, mobile operators, entrepreneurs, and mobile app developers who contributed enthusiastically to the discussion. Key discussants at the meetup included :-

  • Dr. Martin Osumba and Stephen Wanyee from Kenya National HMIS Program (AfyaInfo)
  • Dr. Judy Gichoya from AMPATH Kenya
  • Manoj Changarampatt from Samsung
  • Caroline Ngugi from MedAfrica
  • Mojca Cargo from GSMA
  • Paul Mugambi and Alex Siboe from Safaricom

Some key observations made at the meetup are summarized below :-

1. Credibility of Mobile Content

Throughout the discussion, developers were challenged to ensure that the information they incorporate in their MHealth applications is credible and authentic. This, according to the different stakeholders present, can be reached through content partnerships with authentic content generators. Such collaborations among stakeholders in the health sector was thought to ensure authenticity and credibility of information disseminated to the public through any mobile channel. Mobile applications developers were also encouraged to broaden their knowledge of the health sector domain to better handle content and value propositions around mHealth.

2. Islands of Success vs Collaboration

Participants observed that there was much duplication of mHealth initiatives across the industry. Successful initiatives were also seen as small islands of success that needed to be duplicated and scaled up for maximised impact. While collaboration and interoperability among initiatives was encouraged by participants, some participants felt that competition should also be allowed among players for improved value offerings to the ultimate consumers.

3. Sustainability of initiatives

There was emphasis on encouraging entrepreneurial activity around mHealth innovations and initiatives for sustainability. Such sustainability was argued to be achievable beyond donor funding as product offerings would be market driven with consumers paying for value received through innovative products. Donor funding in mHealth was deemed by some participants as welcome to the extent that it would support growth for local mobile entrepreneurship efforts.

4. Compilation of mHealth problem sets

Some mobile application developers present expressed their desire to access a list of existing problem sets in the health domain solvable through mobile application technologies. Non tech players present were urged to help develop such a list so a to point the developer community towards the more urgent problems that could be solved through mobile application services. Though such a compilation of problem sets was welcome, developers were advised to proactively seek to understand the challenges faced by health practitioners and come up with innovative solutions advanced through entrepreneurial efforts.

5. Developer competitions vs Entrepreneurship development

Developer competitions encouraging creation of mobile solutions in health and other areas for inclusion in app stores were highlighted. These were observed to be useful in creating avenues for talented developers to bubble up and win prize cash that could bring much needed cash to their fledgling businesses. However, participants felt that developers participating in competitions and winning prize money was not enough for fostering entrepreneurial spirit in the mHealth ecosystem. The more established corporate players in the ecosystem were challenged to create platforms for training and mentoring budding entrepreneurs in the industry. These more established corporates were also urged to jointly work with entrepreneurs in helping to refine the entrepreneurs’ business models. This approach would help the entrepreneurs and the large corporates to develop mutually beneficial commercial products that could leverage the corporate players’ marketing and distribution channels.

About Wireless Wednesday Meetups

Wireless Wednesday meetups organized by m:lab East Africa are aimed at creating a forum for exchange of views and networking between mobile application developers and practitioners in various industry sectors. The series of meetups on mHealth in particular aims to give the different stakeholders in the health sector a platform to share their thoughts on how to grow the regional mHealth ecosystem.

Video clips of discussions and issues raised during Wireless Wednesday meetups are available to the public through m:lab East Africa’s youtube channel. A pictorial view of the discussion and the ensuing networking are available at the meetup's photo stream.

The remaining three meetups will be held in the first Wednesday of the next three months at m:lab East Africa’s premises on Bishop Magua Centre  - Ngong road, Nairobi.

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