For those who thought 'the twain shall never meet'- health care and mobile technology, it is indeed a nice surprise.
A conglomeration of powerful groups - the GSM Association's Development Fund, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, Accenture Development Partnership, Motorola Inc., MTN South Africa, and Voxiva have come out with Phones-for-Health; a plan to improve the AIDS/HIV scenario in Africa.
'The explosive spread of mobile phone networks across the developing world has created a unique opportunity to significantly transform how countries can tackle global health challenges,' says Dr. Howard Zucker, assistant director-general of the World Health Organization.
The ten million dollar program will equip health workers in the field with a Motorola made phone equipped with an application that lets them enter health data on patients.
The information is securely then sent wirelessly to a central database. If the data network is not available, it can be sent via short message service.
'Health workers will also be able to use the system to order medicine, send alerts, download treatment guidelines, training materials and access other appropriate information,' says Paul Meyer, chairman of Voxiva, the company that has designed the software.
The program will initially focus on 10 African countries, building on an existing deployment in Rwanda.
As time passes, the partnership is expected to be extended in Africa and Asia to address diseases like tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases.
Fixed-line telephone and Internet connections are rare across much of the continent, making pen and paper still the principal way of recording the spread of disease.
But now more than 60 percent of Africans now live in areas with mobile phone coverage and that figure is expected to rise to 85 percent by 2010, according to the GSM Association, a global trade group representing leading mobile operators.