GPSMSHealth Digital Networks for Global Health

This project proposal seeks to employ micro communications technology to enable residents in difficult to reach and rural areas have information about health facilities and relevant health promotion campaign. It also explores the use of developing a universal text / symbol language for emergency health needs, with a locative dimension that supported non-GPS platforms.

The premise of the research is that with the current widespread use of mobile phones and fairly established GSM/GPS networks in most of Southern Africa, the power of telephone text communications can be better harnessed to aid with health care information, promotion and delivery in inaccessible rural and urban areas.

We would be looking to develop an infrastructure/information project that links with Health Care professionals in South Africa to provide outreach health information and services to population groups in inaccessible or poorly accessed rural and township areas.

The objective is to use existing mobile telephony, that is linked to established international GSM networks as connectors to information streams from health care centres in more accessible areas. By exploiting the ubiquity of mobile phone coverage in Africa, the concept is that residents in rural and inaccessible areas will be able to connect their mobile phones to GSM hub stations that in turn will be able to send real time messages to healthcare professionals at specialist medical facilities in larger towns, who can instantly respond to emergencies but also send health care information and advice to such communities.

Whilst satellite navigation in Europe and America is becoming standard across smart phone platforms, the widespread use of mobile phones in South Africa is generally limited to basic handsets. However it is possible to conceive of an SMS or voice assisted navigation system that is able to use a combination of mobile mast triangulation, base station GPS and landmarks. An affordable navigation interface via SMS could offer many transferrable uses across health, social and economic contexts and offer benefits for users access to new spaces.

The higher aspiration is to create a new set of mobile phone text graphics (idiotext – is this the word?) which work with the international health communications material to provide a simple set of health symbols which are internationally recognisable and can directly communicate basic health promotion information and advice to rural populations. Conversely the graphics should be universally accessible to rural health care workers as a an effective communication form  for non formal language speakers in inaccessible areas to make contact and receive information from remotely located health care professionals until help can get through. Coupled with a locative media platform for basic handsets, access to healthcare could be revolutionised.

The tasks thus to be explored would be:

Working with partner African universities to enable the creation of base stations to help receive and transmit GSM messages from ‘traditional’ mobile handsets to more powereful data enabled phones/tablets etc in the hands of health care professionals in urban/large cities

Work with local African ethnologists and professional anthropologist to develop a telephone graphic based communication system with the help of linguits anthropologists and digital media professionals for universal use at basic literacy levels.

The testing of the proposal on site in Africa in association with partner African healthcare and tertiary academic institutions.

Considering whether the project might have ‘transferability’ to other remote healthcare needs in the emerging and developed world

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