The start of the argument about Health 2.0 got me thinking. As sexy, functional and efficient as the health software trend may be - I think we all agree on the fact that it's just not applicable in the African context... yet.
So what might be applicable? SA Doctors need lab results, need to do research, need to store and retrieve patient records (on demand)... How do you get a connected, low cost, easy to use, low maintenance technology infrastructure into South Africa's hospital system? And then keep it there?
We've been using Ubuntu Linux (a proudly South African distribution of the Linux operating system - with our very own billionaire Mark Shuttleworth as the brains) around the office a bit - mainly to do tricky techy stuff, but I've been absolutely blown away with the new version (6.06 I think). It's funky, it's African, it's VERY easy to use (provided you don't mess with settings / use installed packages - which are more than ample for everyday use) and it runs on fumes.
I've personally run Ubuntu on a P3 256mb RAM - like lightning on the highveld.
So here's the challenge:
TO MARK SHUTTLEWORTH, OUR BILLIONAIRE BRUVVA...
Well done, chaps, excellent job. How about a project? We could secure funding (Government?) for an independent, empowered, Section 21 company to create an Ubuntu network of computers linking all SA's primary, secondary and tertiary care hospitals together.
- It's low cost because the operating system is free.
- It's low cost because it runs on the kind of computers America is throwing away.
- It's low maintenance, because once the networking protocols, any required software and web browser have been installed - the OS can be locked down and user logins/passwords managed fairly easily.
- It doesn't get viruses. Including the ones spread by the nasty germs on the kettle in the tea room (whole new post, different time).
- It could network and interlink over a low cost dialup, sponsored by Telkom.
- It could encourage the open source community (multiverse, universe... I get confused) to get together and develop some simple software for storing patient records, lab results, X-Rays and making them available to the right channels at the right time.
- It doesn't crash!
I think I'm onto something - if I dare say so myself. South Africans are too ready to throw away local solutions when faced with more expensive, inappropriate overseas ones. A project like this, while creating jobs and uplifting infrastructure would equip and empower our medical industry to fight a battle they're not getting a lot of help with. And we'll be doing it, the South African way.
Baragwanath is 2km wide. How would you like to run a kilometre (the phones just don't get answered) and wait in a queue (only 5 terminals work currently) for those lab results as your patient lies gasping on the slab?
This is a call. Who's in? Are the folks at Ubuntu interested in pursuing a project like this? Is there anything going on at the moment?
If I'm not mistaken - movements like this ARE the spirit of Ubuntu. Leave a comment, we're really interested in your views...