• Connectivity
  • Spotlight on space strategy and satellites

    Launching and using satellites for the benefit of a region is a complex endeavour requiring progress on three fronts: political, financial, and technical. Just last week Africa benefited from progress in all three.

    On the policy frontier, Africa’s Space Working Group met for the third time in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to agree on a draft African Space Policy, as well as a framework for developing a draft Space Strategy. Due to the costly and elaborate nature of space activities, a coordinated and collaborative framework between African nations will be vital to these programmes’ success. The proposed policy and framework are now to be put forth for adoption by the AU. This political support and framework are often the first key steps in securing stable funding for the development, construction, and operation of satellites.

    Technologically, North Africa will benefit from the successful launch of the EUTELSAT25B/Es’hail 1 satellite earlier in 2013. The 6.3 tonne telecommunications satellite will become operational late October, with satellite capacity provided by both EUTELSAT (France) and Es’hailSat (Qatar) to the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa.

    As additional bandwidth providers like Es’hailSat enter the market, the cost of satellite communications will decrease, making it more affordable and accessible for use in the provision of eHealth services.

    African countries can start developing their eHealth plans to begin to take advantage of this new, cheaper facility. It can aid their mHealth and clinical information sharing projects.

  • Ethiopia Telecom's partners win a big slice of China's 4G

    Following on from the eHealth News Africa report on Ethiopia Telecom’s $1.6 billion plan to expand its mobile phone infrastructure with ZTE, China’s second largest telecoms equipment manufacturer and Huawei Technologies, the world’s second largest telecoms equipment manufacturer, South Africa’s MTN Group, Africa’s largest mobile phone company, now has a license to provide some telecoms services in Ethiopia.

    The Economist says that the country’s 80 million plus population is behind the rest of continent in telecoms, with penetration of 25% compared to 70% in Africa. The expanded infrastructure and potential considerable growth in penetration creates new opportunities for mHealth. It creates a new strategy for Ethiopia’s healthcare system.

    Reuters reports that ZTE and Huawei have also won the bulk of the contract for China Mobile’s $3.2 billion upgrade to 4G. Estimates are 25% each. There are some 700 million subscribers. The 4G development is for more than 700 million mobile customers, the world’s largest. The upgrade is seen as critical to an agreement with Apple to carry its iPhone. Huawei makes the Ascend P6 smartphone.

    With this scale of telecoms initiative, Ethiopia’s partnership puts them in a global context for its new mobile market. eHealth News Africa will monitor the impact on mHealth initiatives and expansion over the coming months.

  • 4G has arrived in Nigeria

    imbabwe isn’t the only African country upgrading to 4G networks. Nigerian internet service provider Spectranet has rolled out its 4G LTE wireless broadband network across Lagos, with expansion to other major cities coming soon.

    The network activated in August promises “the best broadband service in Nigeria, with cutting edge services at affordable price points”.

    Better network coverage and increased connectivity lays the foundation for new mHealth initiatives.

    Read more about 4G for Zimbabwe in eHealth News Africa.

  • 4G for Zimbabwe

    Zimbabwean mobile operator Econet Wireless rolled out its 4G services to its subscribers over the weekend. For now the newly launched 4G services will be available in the CBD of Harare, Bulawayo and the town of Victoria Falls. Econet has not yet revealed when it plans to expand its roll out to the rest of the country but has made it clear that it will first target high traffic areas before rolling out to rural communities. 4G certainly has its advantages with speed being at heart of the upgrade.

    Speed of access, downloads and uploads will now take place at a much faster rate. Zimbabwe’s 4G brings new opportunities for mHealth services and innovations.

  • Kenya's ambitious broadband strategy

    Kenya has launched an extensive plan to boost internet speeds and rollout digital services to remote areas. The roll out will cost the country Sh257 billion (3 billion USD) and hopes to ensure reliable internet services by 2017. The strategy, calls for 5% of the National Budget to be geared to ICTs annually, up from the current 0.5%.

    “The strategy provides a roadmap to transform Kenya into a knowledge-based society driven by reliable high-capacity nationwide broadband network,” reads the blue print in part.

    While the strategy doesn’t specifically mention eHealth or healthcare, ICT investment and infrastructure developments are essential foundation components of eHealth strategy, paving the way for future eHealth initiatives in Kenya. Kenya is one of the first African countries to have a detailed eHealth strategy.  The mission of the 2011-2017 eHealth strategy is to develop efficient, accessible, equitable, secure and consumer friendly healthcare services enabled by ICT. The strategy calls for implementation of telemedicine, health information systems, information for citizens, mHealth and eLearning. The new broadband strategy provides Kenya with the means to implement its eHealth strategy.