This year, the International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICDT) was held from December 7 to 10 in Cape Town, South Africa. ICDT2013 is the 6th in a series of annual conferences aimed toward “examining the role of computers and communications in social, economic, and political development.” By mobilizing global support for improvement and distribution of a growing number of innovative communication technologies, ICDT can have tremendous impact on the scale and effectiveness of community health worker (CHW) projects.
The contemporary revolution in information and communications technologies (ICT) is one of the major forces driving the success of CHW scale-up. CHWs—lay community health providers—are a crucial component of healthcare delivery in low-income regions. They have become especially significant in sub-Saharan Africa, where centralized healthcare infrastructure is extremely limited and where the incidence of preventable diseases and the rates of maternal and infant mortality are higher than any other region of the globe. A central goal of the One Million Community Health Workers (1mCHW) Campaign is to facilitate scale-up of CHWs in sub-Saharan Africa armed with the technology that would allow them to maximize impact.
While the dispersion of ICTs has increased drastically in recent years, low-income regions still lag far behind higher income countries in mobile phone use and subscription. The use of mobile phones allows for the development of more sophisticated health networks via communication between health providers and communication among different branches of the healthcare system. In addition, mobile technologies provide CHWs with the ability to find and store information about disease, diagnostics, medication, and procedures. This drastically improves patient care.
The collaboration spurred by ICDT2013 and the findings of its participants are sure to shed new light on the use of portable and mobile technology to improve healthcare development and delivery (sometimes known as mHealth). ICDT and the 1mCHW Campaign find a common goal in the utilization of new technology, especially in the field of communication, to effect tangible change in the lives of those that need it most.
Guest Blogger: Jacob Moscona-Skolnik