The World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, has called for the replication of the use of remotely piloted aircraft (drones) to change how countries deliver urgently required medical supplies.
Kim, who is on a two-day visit to Rwanda, made the remarks while touring the drones facility in Muhanga District, yesterday. Following a site visit and live demonstration of blood supplies delivery using drones by the Zipline team, Kim said the model ought to be replicated elsewhere in the world to help other countries lagging in delivery of medical supplies.
He termed Rwanda’s use of remotely piloted aircraft as a “perfect example of how countries can use the latest technologies to achieve aspirations.”
Noting that most developing countries often face challenges in the delivery of medical supplies, Kim said the model can be applied broadly to address the challenge.
“One of the greatest challenges, especially in developing countries’ healthcare systems, is that when someone has an emergency and requires urgent attention, it is often difficult to get the supplies needed. In my view, this is exactly what needs to happen. They have taken cutting edge technologies to help countries like Rwanda to leapfrog,” he said.
He said that the model should be expanded to deliver more medical products beyond blood supplies to vaccines and urgently required medicines.
Despite the global fears of the impact of technology on job security with the automation of processes, Kim said, the use of drones is one of the positive impacts of technology uptake.
“The question is what can we learn from this project and expand what is done to more products such as vaccines,” he said.
Expanding the model
Speaking to The New Times on the sidelines of the event, the Minister for Health, Dr Diane Gashumba, said they were looking to expand the model across the country as well as to delivery more medical products using the technology.
In the process of expansion and scaling, the minister said, there would be room to work with partners in aspects such as health financing which is still largely funded by the government.
The project, launched in October last year, is spearheaded by Zipline Inc, an American robotics firm.
Using the drones, the firm delivers blood medical supplies to 21 health facilities in the western part of the country, which were most affected by the logistics challenges.
This has, in turn, reduced the duration of delivery of blood supplies to about 30 minutes, from four to five hours.
Kim also visited the Kigali Special Economic Zone where he toured Africa Improved Foods.
The firm is a joint venture between the International Finance Corporation, Dutch Multinational, the Dutch development bank, Group the Development Finance Institution of the UK, and the Government of Rwanda.
Africa Improved Foods, which began operations in 2016, seeks to create a sustainable solution to fighting malnutrition in the country.
Later in the day, Kim visited an ICT innovation centre, kLab, and Digital Fabrication Lab (FAB LAB) in Kigali, where he interacted with young ICT entrepreneurs. He visited multiple innovations at the facilities asking questions to the developers for more insights.
Kim said since his last visit to Rwanda in 2013, there has been tremendous changes in the country. He said the World Bank Group would is committed to continue supporting the country’s development process.
“I come here very optimistic about the future of Rwanda, I am also aware that there are many obstacles and challenges. I am here to say to President Paul Kagame and the Rwandan people that the World Bank Group is ready to help in any way that they can and that we believe in the future of Rwanda and that it will continue to be a model for the entire world,” he said.
Commenting on the impact of the World Bank Group chief’s visit to the innovation centre, Jean de la Croix Niyotwagira, the founder of Torque, an ICT firm dealing in online management for wholesale distributors, told The New Times that it served as a motivation to emerging ICT entrepreneurs.
Niyotwagira added that the exposure of the emerging ICT sector through such visits would trigger more interest from potential partners and investors to venture into the Rwandan sector.
Today, Kim is expected to give a public lecture at the Kigali Convention Centre, with a focus on the need to shift approaches to development in order to meet aspirations of the world’s seven billion people and to end extreme poverty.
Prior to his departure en route to Tanzania, Kim will visit a social protection site in Kinyana Village in Gasabo District.