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EAC Digital Pioneers – Tackling disease outbreaks in Uganda through mobile applications

Given the current pandemic outbreak, using digital tools to increase efficiency of resources in the health sector is of utmost importance for East Africa’s health system. This is why, Hillary Kaluuma, a young professional of the Centre of Excellence for ICT in East Africa (CENIT@EA) supported the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI), through the Ugandan Academy for Health Innovation at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.

The Academy engaged Hillary for a 6-months internship between September 2020 and March 2021. Hillary was keen on taking complex challenges to drive health innovations using ICT – and he delivered. In fact, he has successfully developed a mobile application that is used in the Ugandan COVID-19 response.

“My innovation offers East Africa an opportunity to efficiently use the existing resources in the health sector to handle a large influx of patients,” highlights Hillary. The project is currently being discussed with the Ministry of Health in Uganda for implementation and recommendations by the Ministry are being integrated to the mobile application and IDI’s existing systems. The Ministry has also requested a piloting phase for roll-out of Hillary’s innovation. If all goes as planned, the new services developed by Hillary will be available in the whole country soon.

“Working with a young professional who is an expert in artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics is quite unique to find in the East African context which is highly in demand of tech-enabled solutions for long existing health challenges,” notes Dr Martin Balaba, Senior Academy Lead for Adaption and Partnerships at IDI.

The mobile application enables efficient use of home-based care services to patients during outbreaks of COVID-19. It is used by the Village Health Teams (VHTs), which are part of Uganda’s healthcare delivery structure. The system explores the use of home-based care as an alternative to hospital-based treatment to reduce the pressure on the existing healthcare systems. The digital solution can be a potential game changer for the Ministry of Health in Uganda as it offers Uganda’s health system of VHT, a platform that enables them to carry out home-based treatment and care in their localities while building capacity and a robust structure that supports the health sector of Uganda to handle future disease outbreaks and sudden enormous influx of patients.

“My work at IDI posed a great challenge and enabled a fascinating learning curve that prompted me to critically think on suitable solutions for problems. In the end, it offered me an opportunity to contribute to the improvement of the healthcare services in my country and save lives. I look forward to a rewarding career opportunity with IDI”, stresses Hillary Kaluuma.

His career has just begun. In fact, Hillary was offered full-time employment by IDI after his internship and is now a lead developer on that project. This is what a successful internship looks like. “I am happy to say that Hillary has contributed largely to the success of our projects. Combining ongoing innovation with available technologies will be key to unlocking impactful solutions for public health”, explains Dr Martin Balaba.

We are sure that Hillary and other CENIT@EA students will contribute to more ICT innovations for the health systems in EAC Partner States!

Background: 

dSkills@EA, implemented by GIZ, is proud to have made a remarkable impact in the upskilling and training of young professionals in digital skills relevant to the industry’s needs, across the six EAC Partner States via its support to CENIT@EA.

The fully-funded Master’s programme in embedded and mobile systems at CENIT@EA is a distinct example of skills development for the digital transformation of the industry in East Africa. The collaboration between academia and industry has been one of the unique components of the programme, ensuring the quality of a practice-oriented teaching and industry-proven curriculum that enabled CENIT@EA students to transfer knowledge to the industry through internships.

dSkills@EA will continue to ensure that the employment and innovation-related digital skills of young EAC citizens are strengthened, in continuous efforts to increase support to youth development in the region.

Find more information on the Master's programme and the possibility to apply under https://www.cenit-ea.org/.

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