Health springing from an unlikely source, cell phones

EASTERN PROVINCE BUGESERA—Ericsson and the mobile telecommunication network MTN on Monday this week inaugurated the first community mobile communications network in one of Africa’s Millennium Villages.

EASTERN PROVINCE

BUGESERA—Ericsson and the mobile telecommunication network MTN on Monday this week inaugurated the first community mobile communications network in one of Africa’s Millennium Villages.

The project is a result of partnership between MTN and the millennium villages project. It is geared towards improving health care, education and small-business development through mobile telephone services, and internet use according to sources.

About 70 community health workers in Mayange, the Millennium Village in Rwanda, would each receive an Ericsson mobile handset installed with basic information on handling the newborn and a mobile telephone tool for collecting basic health data from households.

Communication among the beneficiaries would be enabled on a toll-free line for a period of one year. Also officially handed over was a solar charger, a product designed to charge at least 30 mobile phone batteries and eight phones simultaneously in a day.

At the inauguration ceremony at Mayange health centre, the president and chief executive of Ericsson Carl-Heric Svanberg stressed the need for connecting rural areas to telecommunication services saying: “mobile telephone services should not be a preserve of urban dwellers. We don’t do it for charity but because when people are connected, business is able to grow.”

“This is a great day for Ericsson, Africa is important to us; Rwanda is a home country for us.”

Governor Teoneste Musindashaka appealed to the chief executive of Ericsson for low cost mobile telephone hand sets to enable the Rwandan government realise its commitment of providing mobile telephones to local communities.

Andrew Rugege of MTN reaffirmed their commitment to sustain the pilot project and probably replicate it to other areas of the country. He said it was their organization’s intention to see Rwandese improve their economic status.

Also speaking at a ceremony witnessed by a handful of local residents and largely covered by international media was Dr. Joseph Nkurunziza, health coordinator of the Millennium Village Project.

He said the mobile telephone services were a milestone in improving health services. Nkurunziza said previously it had been hard to coordinate information between the health centre and the most distant patients.

He said the provision of the mobile telephone services had answered Millennium Development Goals four, five and six, and it would enhance reporting of emergence cases needing immediate attention.

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