Botswana pilots TV white space telemedicine project
March 16, 2015
The first telemedicine service in Africa using TV white spaces is set to bring internet connectivity to hospitals and clinics across rural areas of Botswana. The deployment is the result of a partnership between the Botswana Innovation Hub, Microsoft, the University of Pennsylvania and others
The pilot project, called Project Kgolagano, will provide clinical consultations and diagnoses to a patient population who would otherwise have to travel far distances to the capital city of Gaborone, Botswana, for specialised care.
Penn Medicine telemedicine experts and physicians, including Doreen Ramogola-Masire, county director if the Botswana-UPenn Partnership (BUP) and Ryan Littman-Quinn, director of mobile health informatics at BUP, will provide the support and medical expertise for the referred patients. Cervical cancer expert Harvey Friedman, director of BUP, is the principal investigator of Project Kgolagano, which means “to be connected or networked”.
The BUP, a programme of the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania, is comprised of three main partners – the government of Botswana, the University of Botswana and the University of Pennsylvania – working together to build capacity in sustainable and high quality healthcare in Botswana through clinical care, research and medical education.
Founded in 2001, the BUP provides expert care focusing in areas related to HIV, tuberculosis, cervical cancer, including co-morbid, multidrug resistant and complicated cases, and dermatology, among others.
TV white spaces is a technology that enables the delivery of broadband using dynamic spectrum access. Unused spectrum on the frequency range commonly used to deliver television channels is used and known as TV white space or TVWS. Microsoft through its 4Afrika initiative has launched similar pilots across Africa including in Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania and Ghana.
Project Kgolagano will have a specific focus on providing access to specialised maternal medicine, which will improve the livelihoods of women located in small towns and rural areas.
It will initially run in three locations – Lobatse, Francistown and Maun – with additional locations being added in the coming months. The hospitals to be connected are Athlone Hospital in Lobatse, Nyangabwe Hospital in Francistown, and Letsholathebe II Memorial Hospital in Maun. In addition, Tsopeng Clinic in Lobatse, Donga Clinic in Francistown and Moeti Clinic, Boseja Clinic, Maun Clinic, Sedie Clinic and Maun General Clinic will also be connected.
This latest project builds on BUP’s continuing telemedicine efforts with mobile phone technology in the country to help bring better clinical care to patients afar.
“This unique and innovative project will allow underserved patients in the rural areas of Botswana to have better access to the health care they need,” said Friedman, who is also professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Penn. “People won’t have to travel hundreds of miles to the see specialists, which are lacking in many of the rural hospitals in the country. They will be able to engage with Penn Medicine doctors and residents who work over there from their local hospitals and clinics in a live telemedicine connection that will deliver care in a faster, more convenient and cost-effective manner.”
Other collaborators on the project include Global Broadband Solutions, Vista Life Sciences, BoFiNet, Adaptrum and USaid-NetHope.