$80 smartphone drives Kenyan mHealth adoption

By Chris Gullo
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MedKenya

The MedKenya Android App

It's widely accepted that the rise of low-cost smartphones in developing nations will play an important role in accelerating mHealth adoption. An Android-based smartphone called IDEOS that retails for $80, developed by Chinese manufacturer Huawei, has already reached more than 350,000 users in Kenya. According to a new article by Jeremy Ford for Singularity Hub, these low-cost phones can "jumpstart the spread of liberating technologies."

The IDEOS smartphone, offered through Kenya’s telecom Safaricom, has a low price point due to the falling price of microelectronics, and by using less advanced components: The IDEOS includes less memory and screen size than offerings like the iPhone, but is otherwise comparable to phones sold in major world markets.

The open source nature of the Android operating system will allow for region-specific applications. Medkenya, a reference app similar to WebMD, won top prize recently at the Pivot25 entrepreneurial contest recently held in Nairobi. The app provides symptom checkers, first-aid information, medical alerts, and searchable doctor & hospital directories in an attempt to make healthcare more accessible for Kenyans.

"I have a hunch that this is just the beginning of healthcare-related apps in Africa," writes Ford. "We’ve seen smartphones adopt all kinds of medical technology, from digital stethoscopes to cancer diagnosis, and I’m hopeful that we’ll see similarly stunning med-tech reach even the remotest areas one day. An app that tracks mosquito outbreaks or a smartphone with an HIV-testing peripheral would work wonders to address persisting healthcare challenges of the developing world. Who knows? Maybe one day they’ll be able to carry a doctor around in their pocket."

At last month’s World Congress 3rd Annual Leadership Summit on mHealth, Kate Canales, creative director of Frog Design, spoke about what mHealth programs can learn from the developing world. Speakers at the GSMA-mHA Mobile Health Summit, held in Capetown, South Africa earlier this summer, focused their talks on growing the emerging mobile healthcare market and making it sustainable.

You can read the full Singularity Hub article here.