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25 June 2014

Africa's First Medical Tablet with Mobile Connectivity Recognized.

Recently, the Royal Society brought out its list of five winners of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, and the field covered a wide variety of technologies and fields. Ranging from breeding programs to what is believed to be the first medical tablet PC of African make, this collection of young people had a lot to offer, and said advances posed exciting new possible developments for the future.

The Rolex Awards for Enterprise started with a shortlist measuring 1,800 total applicants worldwide, and the five young winners, chosen by a panel of eight expert jurists, each received a prize of 50,000 Swiss francs—about $55,866 U.S.--in order to put some extra juice into the projects.

Among the winners were Saudi Arabia's Hosam Zowawi for his work in developing tests for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, Neeti Kailas of India for work in developing a device to detect hearing loss in newborns, Rwanda's Olivier Nsengimana for developing breeding programs for grey-crowned cranes, and Italy's Francesco Sauro for work in South America's quartzite caves.
But perhaps the most interesting was that of Cameroon's Arthur Zang, who developed what is believed to be the first ever African medical tablet that can connect via a mobile phone connection. With said tablet, remotely-located health care workers can quickly send the results of cardiac tests to heart specialists in more developed regions, essentially opening up telehealth to Africa.

While Zang's development isn't exactly a development—more developed countries have been engaging in remote telemedicine practices for years—the fact that it's said to be the first such development in Africa makes it particularly noteworthy. But what it really underscores is the value of telemedicine as a whole. In more developed countries, it's looked at as a means to reduce expenses, to reduce the length of hospital stays, and sometimes, to allow those in more rural settings access to specialties not commonly seen outside of big cities, such as dermatology or the like. These are all valuable points, but such points are really little more than incremental improvements over what's currently in place.

But in places like Africa, and other less developed nations, telemedicine may prove a lifesaver as those “specialties not commonly seen outside of big cities” include a whole lot more than the equivalent in developed nations. While even small towns in the United States may be a little more than an hour's drive from a board-certified cardiologist, in Africa, that cardiologist may be hours, or even days, away. Zang's advance therefore allows more people to see these doctors, and be able to get more rapid treatment options for medical issues, reducing mortality rates and making things better for the lives of people not just in Africa, but in other less developed nations as well.

Telemedicine has a lot of potential to improve lives, and the work of those like Arthur Zang will help us all reach a future in which telemedicine is not only viable, but actively used.



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