With unreliable Internet connections, Rwanda has limited ability to track the spread of epidemics like HIV across the country.
The Phones-for-Health project, which uses mobile phones to enter medical data, will soon allow governments to respond quickly to epidemics and help patients receive medical treatment faster, writes Manasee Wagh in this Biotech360 article.
The project takes advantage of Africa's surprisingly good mobile phone coverage: 60 per cent of the population lives in areas covered by a mobile phone network.
By using mobile phones and software developed for the project, medical clinics in Rwanda will communicate patient information, order medicine and get treatment information. This data will help build up national health information systems.
The project was tested in September 2006 but is not yet up and running. Organisers are currently distributing handsets.
There could be problems: project organisers must convince local officials and mobile phone carriers to work with the project, and it may take some time for people to realise the value of the system.
But project leaders are hopeful; they plan to set up next in Nigeria, and expand to ten developing countries in the next three years.