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Innovate purposefully to solve society challenges

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Added 30th August 2017 01:01 PM

It is well known that ICTs have the ability to drive the development of other sectors

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The Minister for ICT and National Guidance Frank Tumwebaze over the weekend addressed the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technology’s (CAMTECH) Medtech Hack-a-thon 2017. This was at Mbarara Unviversity of Science and Technology on Sunday, August 27, 2017. The theme was: Innovative solutions to address neonatal and maternal health challenges in Uganda. Below is his speech

I wish to thank the organisers of this year’s Medtech Hack-a-thon for inviting me once again to speak and participate in these conversations that speak to the need for purposeful innovations. In this case, innovating for health. Besides the passion I have for innovations, it is always exciting for me  as an Alumni to visit Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST).

The focus for this year’s Hack-a-thon is well thought out and could not have come at a better time when the country is advancing efforts to curb and possibly eliminate fully neonatal and maternal related fatalities. I am happy that the innovations pitched here all had a problem targeted to solve and also demonstrated its business model for sustainability.

Despite all the improvements in health, regrettably, we continue to have mothers and new-borns die from preventable causes such as blood loss, high blood pressure, obstructed labour, complications of pre-term births, asphyxia and infections, among others, even when they are in the care of health services. While the Government has tried to ensure presence and access to health facilities up to parish level in some places, many health facilities continue to struggle to provide rapid emergency care needed to manage maternal complications and care for sick new-borns. The common causes have been inadequate or unhygienic infrastructure, lack of competent and motivated staff, unavailability of medicines in some cases occasioned by limited supplies and early stock-outs, limited compliance to evidence-based clinical interventions and practices and poor documentation and failure to use data and information for decision making.

The Uganda Demographic Health Survey (UDHS) 2016 indicated, estimates for maternal mortality ratio for the seven years preceding 2016 is 336 deaths per 100,000 live births, implying that for every 1,000 live births there are three maternal deaths. The infant mortality rate for the period of five years preceding 2016 was 43 deaths per 1,000 live births. The timing for this hack-a-thon is, therefore, right and well-focused.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is well known that ICTs have the ability to drive the development of other sectors such as health, education, social services and agriculture. It is thus always encouraging to see an intersect between ICTs and other sectors such as health, fuelled by innovation, as has been the case here. This depicts the very nature of the innovation eco-system on one side and socio economic transformation drawn from various collaborations on the other, expertise in identifying needs, observing, analysing and creating solutions and application of ICTs in the same.

As a country, we shall be assessed globally by how well we are creating and diffusing technology and building a human skill base, reflecting capacity to participate in the technological innovations of the network age.” This is why the Government of Uganda and my ministry in particular are pioneering efforts to increase the uptake and usage of ICTs not only within the Government, but up to the last person. This, we are advancing through opening up our innovation ecosystem and creating a conducive environment for the private sector to harness the potential for ICTs. Indeed, we have seen the emergence of private sector led innovations that have disrupted our way of life; from social networking, mobile financial services, Jaguza in Agriculture, mobile applications/devices that detect various parameters of the human health, Uber in the transport Industry and clinic master in health, among others. The list is now endless and more are emerging by the day.

 The Government is also increasingly digitising its systems and several Government MDAs have already had their core activities digitised and accessed online. Some of the innovative MDAs include Uganda Revenue Authority, KCCA, Uganda Investment Authority, URSB, Department of Citizenship and Immigration, among others. Where these services have been put online, dividends in terms of increased access and efficiency have already been registered.  The Ministry of ICT is also in the final stages of tabling to cabinet The Digital Vision Uganda. This will be the overall ICT policy framework for the county and will define key digital milestones for each sector to adopt. E-health will be one cluster under the e-government pillar of the digital strategy.  Therefore, your e-health innovations are timely and the Government will lead in being the first customer and consumer.

The Ministry of ICT and National Guidance in furtherance of efforts to improve and widen the innovation ecosystem has continued to evolve appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks aimed at attracting, retaining and promoting ICT led innovations. Through our innovation support programme, the Government will, among others, be providing support to innovators and innovations that will have been assessed and demonstrate potential to solve existing challenges with room for advancement and potential to create jobs, break into markets both local and regional/international. I will soon launch a panel of judges to define the criteria of this support. A call for concepts is also about to be issued in the press.

On this note, I must applaud CAMTECH for your approach to innovation. While many young innovators are into applications and areas that may already be crowded and in some cases solutions are to non-existing problems, your approach and focus during these hack-a-thons has always been directed towards visible health challenges. Where innovations prove to be solutions to existing gaps/challenges in society, there will always be ready market. Any innovation, therefore, that does not solve any challenge can only be called a trial...

The uniqueness of ICTs is that, in their application and use, they transcend both sectorial and physical borders. It is my sincere hope, therefore, that the ideas and innovations that emerge are those that are human cantred conscious of the environment and context of Uganda and being able to present solutions that shall transcend societies, communities and the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, as mentioned in my remarks last year, I would like to reiterate that good health is key to facilitating social economic transformation as cited by our Vision 2040. Our vision in line with the aspirations of Ugandans to have access to quality health care and shift to preventive over curative health service delivery approaches, underscores innovations that promote this approach. I hope that the clinical visits leading up to the hack-a-thons and the resultant co-created innovations, were centred on prevention because it is cost effective and sustainable. The Ministry of Health also wants to focus on this.

Let us all embrace ICT for faster and efficient health interventions. I thank MUST for being pioneers of this ICT driven Health.

I thank you and wish you all good health.

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