Best tools to boost mHealth initiatives in Africa

Any mHealth product or service is based on mobile technology.

Any mHealth product or service is based on mobile technology.

For Africa, the technology used should be adapted to what is available and should be often synonymous with simple technology.

If you plan to develop a mHealth product or service, you should attentively consider integrating these 10 tools: 


Created by DataDyne in 2009, EpiSurveyor is a hands-on software really simple to collect data on any kind mobile phone. EpiSurveyor lets anyone create an account, design forms, download them to phones, and start collecting data in minutes. More than 9,000 users have relied on it to upload more than 10 million data banks since the inception of this platform.

Applications include follow-up of treated patient, health education and epidemics surveillance.


Ushahidi is a non-profit software company that develops free and open source software for information collection, visualisation and interactive mapping.

The organisation uses the concept of crowd-sourcing for social activism and public accountability, serving as an initial model for what has been coined as ‘activist mapping’ using multiple channels, including SMS, email, Twitter and the web.

On the field Ushahidi’s products enable local observers to submit reports using their mobile phones or the internet, while simultaneously creating a temporal and geospatial archive of events. 

Applications include health facilities localisation and epidemic mapping.


Free open source software used by organisations to distribute and collect information via text messages (SMS). FrontlineSMS enables users to connect a range of mobile devices to a computer to send and receive SMS text messages. The software works without an internet connection by connecting a device such as a cell phone. If internet access is available, FrontlineSMS can be connected to online SMS services and set up to feed incoming messages to other web or e-mail services.

Good for health workers networking and health-related mLearning.

Open MRS

With it already in use in many hospitals, Open MRS is collaborative open-source software to support the delivery of health care in developing countries. It grew out of the critical need to scale up the treatment of HIV in Africa but from the start was conceived as a general purpose electronic medical record system that could support the full range of medical treatments. OpenMRS is founded on the principles of openness and sharing of ideas, software and strategies for deployment and use. More than 124 research and clinical centers are involved in the Open MRS project all around the world.

Applications: Electronic Medical Record, Health demographics, Cohort management.

Rapid SMS

It is SMS-based framework that manages data collection, complex workflows, and group coordination using basic mobile phones. It can present information on the internet as soon as it is received. So far RapidSMS has been customised and deployed with diverse functionality: remote health diagnostics, nutrition surveillance, supply chain tracking, registering children in public health campaigns, and community discussion.

Applications : Health worker communication, Automated treatment alerts, Nutritional surveillance.