Ghana’s drone service which launched in April, makes on-demand emergency deliveries of 148 different vaccines, blood products and lifesaving medications to health facilities in the country, 24 hours daily.
The first hospital to use the service was New Tafo, a government hospital about two hours north of the Ghanaian capital, Accra. The service was brought to Ghana by Silicon Valley Company Zipline.
Medical superintendent Kobena Wriedu said the hospital had received at least 25 drone deliveries in the past month, with a handful coming in emergency situations much quicker than road transport.
By the end of the year, an additional three centres are set to be opened across Ghana. Combined, they will provide deliveries to 2,000 health facilities serving 12 million people, making up to 600 delivery flights a day on behalf of the Ghanaian government, under a contract worth $12.5 million over four years.
The Centre in Omenako where the drones come from has a cold storage facility for the blood and medicines to be stored. Workers watch the screens as orders come through and quickly fill the orders and assemble and launch the drones. They get the orders from health care workers by text message.
Ghana’s services are still in the early stages, with only four health facilities using it so far. The Omenako Centre’s fulfilment operations coordinator, Samuel Akuffo, said the service would prove its worth as Ghana starts to see heavy rain for the rainy season. The drones can fly in all weather conditions, and over roads that vehicles might not be able to pass in heavy rain.
Nigeria’s tech industry threatens lawsuit to fight police brutality on developers
Outrage erupted from the tech community after Lagos-based software engineer, Toni Astor accused police of brutality
Nigeria’s tech industry on Monday slammed security agencies for the “illegal arrests” of web developers in the country, where authorities often accuse them of being internet fraudsters.
Outrage erupted from the tech community and on social media in Africa’s most populous country over the weekend after Lagos-based software engineer Toni Astro said he was arrested, beaten and extorted for money by a notorious police unit.
Astro said officers from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) — a force widely accused of human rights abuses — assaulted him after discovering him with a laptop and made him withdraw money from his accounts to pay them.
“Policemen there said you’re the one spoiling the economy,” Astro wrote on Twitter.
The incident brought together some 30 companies, investors and media outlets in Nigeria’s budding tech industry to threaten a “class action lawsuit” under the banner #StopRobbingUs.
“SARS officers, Nigeria Police and all tactical units, targeting software engineers is a frequent occurrence in Lagos and this is the latest in a string of attacks,” they said in a statement.
“This is an ongoing concern for Nigeria’s tech community. A talent problem already exists in our sector, yet police, particularly SARS’ harassment, accentuates the talent drain in our industry.”
Nigeria’s economic capital Lagos is a key tech hub for African developers.
But the country is also notorious for cybercrime and fraud, perpetrated by organised gangs known locally as “Yahoo Yahoo boys”.
Earlier this month, Nigerian and US authorities said they had arrested nearly 300 people in a months-long crackdown on online scams to hijack wire transfers from companies and individuals.
Industry figures say web developers are regularly harassed and extorted by police authorities, who accuse web developers of being involved in cybercrime.
Bosun Tijani, CEO of Co-Creation Hub, told reporters that tech workers were often detained when found with a laptop.
He said firms were documenting cases of their workers being targeted around the country and called for police “to be trained in this area”.
“It is driving talented young people away from this industry.”
SARS officers have long faced allegations of widespread abuse and a prominent online campaign has called for the unit to be scrapped.
Nigerian police’s complaint response unit said on Twitter that it was investigating the incident involving Astro.
African tech start-up, Andela lays off 400 junior developers
Andela is ending its entry-level training programmes for tech developers in Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda
Major African tech start-up, Andela sacked hundreds of its staff this week — the majority from Nigeria — in one of the largest layoffs in the continent’s budding tech industry.
The start-up, backed by hundreds of millions of dollars from investors including Facebook and tennis star, Serena Williams, laid off more than 250 junior software developers in Nigeria and Uganda, with up to 170 trainees in Kenya “impacted”, it said in a statement on Tuesday evening.
Andela is ending its entry-level training programmes for tech developers in the three countries. Training will only continue in Rwanda out of its four bases in Africa — in a major departure from its business model.
“Our initial strategy was to identify high-potential talent on the African continent, train them in software development,” co-founder and CEO, Jeremy Johnson said in a statement.
“It’s also become clear, however, that the majority of the demand is for more experienced talent,” he said.
The company which has over 1,500 engineers, trains talented developers in Africa and outsources them to some 200 tech companies in US tech haven Silicon Valley and around the world.
Yet, the US, its largest market, has seen a growth of junior web developers, decreasing demand from Africa.
The majority of its engineers are junior level, yet it will now focus on training and hiring experienced staff.
Andela was founded in 2014 — its name inspired by former South African President, Nelson Mandela — to fill a shortage of skilled software developers and invest in Africa’s best minds.
“Brilliance is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not”, its founders have said, seeking to challenge common perception that there is a lack of technical professionals in Africa.
The start-up has won mass plaudits across the continent and caught the attention of high profile investors, with Mark Zuckerberg and former US Vice President Al Gore key backers.
In January, Andela raised $100 million from venture capital funds, bringing its total funding to $ 180 million — cementing its status as one of the most highly regarded tech firms in Africa.
Telemedicine revolution saving lives in Ivory Coast
The fledgling technology has long been championed by health advocates for rural economies.
Every time Catherine Coulibaly’s 19-year-old son had to make a routine appointment with the cardiologist for his heart condition, she gritted her teeth as she silently counted the financial cost.
It wasn’t just the hospital fee — there was the transport, food and accommodation, too, all of it amounting to a hefty burden for an Ivorian family on a modest income.
But thanks to telemedicine – consultations that doctors conduct through the internet or by phone – this cost is now a fading memory.
Her son can book an appointment at a telemedicine facility in a nearby town in northern Ivory Coast.
There, he is attached to monitoring machines which send the data sent to Bouake University Hospital in the centre of the country, where it is scrutinised by a heart doctor.
The fledgling technology has long been championed by health advocates for rural economies.
Ivory Coast has become an African testbed for it, thanks to a project linking the Bouake hospital’s cardiac department with health centres in several northern towns, some of which are a four-hour drive away.
Telemedicine “caused a sigh of relief for the population of Bouake, Boundiali, Korhogo, everyone,” says Auguste Dosso, president of the “Little Heart” association, which helps families with cardiac health issues.
Some 45 percent of the Ivorian population live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank’s latest estimate in 2017. And the minimum monthly wage — not always respected — is only around $100, or 90 euros.
Heart disease surging
The pioneer behind the scheme is cardiologist Florent Diby, who set up an association called Wake Up Africa.
In Ivory Coast, heart disease, diabetes and other “lifestyle” ailments are surging, Diby explained.
“Urbanisation is making people more sedentary, and there’s the rise in tobacco consumption, changes in diet, stress,” Diby said.
Three decades ago, only around one in eight of the Ivorian population had high blood pressure — now the figure is one in four, on a par with parts of Western Europe.
But in Ivory Coast — and across Africa — well-equipped cardiology units are rare.
“Ninety percent of heart attacks can be diagnosed by telemedicine, so for us cardiologists it’s a revolutionary technology,” said Diby.
The beauty of the telemedicine scheme is that neither the doctor nor the patient has to travel far.
The cardiac patient is hooked up to the electrocardiogram (ECG) and other diagnostic machines with the help of a technician in a local health centre, which is connected to a computer in Bouake’s University Hospital.
The cardiologist there can then see the results in real time, provide a diagnosis and prescribe treatment.
The five-year-old project has already linked 10 health centres to the seven cardiologists at Bouake, enabling 4,800 patients in other towns to receive consultations by telemedicine each year. The goal is to expand this to 20 sites, doubling the intake.
Expertise France, the French public agency for international technical assistance, subsidises up to 185,000 euros of the network, which pays for equipment such as computers, artificial intelligence software and internet connections.
Diby is now calling for telemedicine to be expanded in other medical fields such as neurology and psychiatry, not just in the Ivory Coast, but across West Africa too.
That opinion is shared by other experts. Sixty per cent of Africans live in rural areas, where shortages of doctors are usually acute.
But numerous hurdles need to be overcome, especially investment in computers and access to the internet, according to a 2013 analysis published by the US National Library of Medicine.
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