Mobile health: donors should follow, not lead
Thursday, January 24, 2013
The potential for mHealth – the practice of medicine and public health supported by mobile devices – is obvious, but the global health community is largely still waiting for it to be realised. I believe that part of the reason is because we so-called overseas experts try to insist on leading the way.
I’m often reminded of the now-legendary fiasco that was, the One Laptop Per Child project, whose failures have been aptly summarised by the blogger Audrey Watters. It can be assumed that the project tried to pre-empt local demand (not to mention the market itself) with a predictably substandard solution – and failed to make much of an impact.
While most mHealth projects benefit from much better design and implementation, much of the attention has been on either top-down initiatives that collect health information (frontline health workers, government bureaucracies, pharmacy distributors, etc) but do not necessarily benefit consumers; or relatively trivial applications of technology, like health-themed apps, games and rudimentary text messaging.