Applications are open to join the 2016-17 cohort of the Global Health Corps, a leadership development organisation solving the world’s biggest health problems by harnessing the power of young people with unconventional skill sets.
Global Health Corps fellows are 30 years or younger and required to have a college degree. Upon selection they serve for one year in high-impact placement organisations in Malawi, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia and the United States.
In addition, fellows attend leadership development trainings throughout their fellowship year and become part of a growing community, currently about 600 strong, of diverse young leaders changing the face of global health.
Applications close on February 2. Below are three examples of previous fellows now doing their bit elsewhere.
From Cibitoke, Burundi, Olivier served as a GHC fellow and programme manager at Vecna Cares Charitable Trust from 2014-2015. After his fellowship, he was hired by Vecna Cares and is currently works on the development of CliniPAK, a workflow based software solution to allow patient’s data capture; the development of a data warehouse for patient’s clinical data; and integration tools with other electronic medical records (EMR) platforms such as OpenMRS, DHIS2.
“I think tech has a great role to play for socio-economic change in Africa. Africa has historically been left behind in terms of development in general. However, there has recently been a remarkable proliferation of technology,” he said.
“And more and more people are having access to the Internet via mobile telecoms. This opens up a huge potential so socio-economic growth.”
Daniel Dut Athian
Daniel is a current GHC fellow serving as a programme manager at Vecna Cares. Born in Aweil, South Sudan, in 2013 he was a part of the team that developed an Android mobile app that won first runner-up in the Community Innovation Awards hosted by Orange Telecom. After completing his undergraduate degree, he then went on to work for Orange Uganda and MultiPath.
“Alongside my regular daily work at Vecna Cares, I work on a few personal projects at my free time. These are mainly mobile apps namely: ChatBuddy, QuickInfoAfrica, TSecret, CheekyKids, Kumbuka plus MensPreg,” Dut said.
“I am working on a voting system for a students’ association in Uganda (both mobile and web) and several community and small business websites as well. These apps except Kumbuka and MensPreg are still not market ready and will gradually be released in 2016 or later depending on how much time I will have to work on them.”
He said tech development can greatly boost socio-economic change in Africa, as it is the only global commodity with which one is not bound to a certain part of the world.
“If adopted, youth self-employment can be a reality. All one needs in this field is right guidance. Any amount of capital is fine with it. I started developing apps without a smartphone and made it. Costs of doing business would be greatly reduced hence leaving the extra money to be used for other meaningful stuff,” Dut said.
He said there is a lot he could achieve as a tech developer in healthcare.
“I can develop systems to make healthcare access easy for everyone with whatever devices they have available. I understand the challenges in both tech and healthcare industries and can weigh in on what is convenient based on a region I need to reach,” he said.
“Information is key to everything. Patients get wrong diagnosis, wrong medication and hence wrong health outcomes because their information is not stored the right way. EMRs are the way to go. I can team up with like-minded individuals to make it possible to transform the healthcare access worldwide.”
Dut is drawn to the non-profit, healthcare field as non-profit organisations reach out to that section of the world population that has no access to the most needed services.
“As this population is avoided by the for-profit organisations for obvious reasons of not having money to pay for the services, working in the non-profit field makes me have an impact in the lives of many who deserve more than what the society provides them,” he said.
“Healthcare is given least attention in today’s world, yet it’s the pillar of everything we do. I believe everyone deserves to have access to healthcare to be able to get out of whatever problems they are facing. You can’t tell someone to work hard to get out of poverty when they are sick; they first need to be healthy to do so.”
A GHC fellow in 2011-2012, Besiga is now the CEO of Sparkplug, a software engineering and technology consulting company that partners with social change agents to create contextually applicable technology solutions that address social and economic challenges. Sparkplug provides unique insights and solutions to cater to the specific needs of the developing world, while maintaining the highest global standards for technology service delivery.
The company has just finished extending the MTrac platform at the Ministry of Health in Uganda to support SMS reporting for Mass Drug Administration for Neglected Tropical Diseases on behalf of RTI International. It has also just rolled out Meazure, a data collection platform to ease mobile data collection, especially for remote teams.
“Not much has been done to engage technologists around social change projects. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that these projects are not homegrown or address purely academic functions. If a tool is built to “monitor and evaluate” before you captivate social engagement, there is a great risk of lack of local context,” he said.
“A better approach would be to start from zero while engaging with local stakeholders to come up with a minimal usable product. This is why I am huge fan of human-centered design.”
He said he knows from his experience with the GHC fellowship, working with UNICEF Uganda and Sparkplug that technology has a “mighty” role to play in improving healthcare access especially at the grassroots level.
“Technology tools can enable health workers to better serve their communities, and healthcare seekers to access services without spending too much of their hard-earned resources. SMS apps and WhatsApp are already playing a role in this. This sector is ripe for continuous innovation,” he said.