Featured image credit: Andy Miah Creative Commons License

Today we had the opportunity to chat with Steve Ollis of D-tree International, who will be a guest expert for our Mobile Phones for Public Health course. Below, he discusses his experience working in the mHealth field!

Can you tell us about your background and experience in mHealth?

I came into mHealth and global health in a somewhat non-traditional way. I actually started off as an accountant and management consultant with BearingPoint, working with various US government military branches on their accounting systems. I moved into IT consulting with a focus on program management for the next six years, working at progressively smaller companies, bringing web applications to state and federal agencies and addressing issues like help desk, user training and support, and change management needed to introduce and sustain new applications in large organizations.

My career in mHealth and global health started with a few short volunteers stints in Kenya and South Africa followed by a position with the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative (now Clinton Health Access Initiative) for two years in Tanzania, working in pediatric HIV, commodities, lab systems and Prevention of Mother to Child (PMTCT) programs.

With this exposure to the global health world and my background in information technology, I was intrigued by the possibility of working in the mHealth space and joined D-tree International in Tanzania six years ago. I have been fortunate to work on cutting edge mobile decision support tools focusing on design, development, deployment and support. I have seen projects grow from 1-2 facility to over a hundred facilities, and 5-10 community health workers to thousands of health workers. Over the years I have also seen a dramatic price drop for Android phones from $650 t0 $80. I have worked in Tanzania, Benin, Malawi, Kenya, Sri Lanka and India as part of small and large teams, and have worked at both the community health worker and Ministry of Health levels.

How is mHealth incorporated to your work currently?

D-tree International is a health NGO that uses mobile technology to improve the care provided by frontline health workers. We are working at the government, donor, implementing partner and ground levels to develop applications and systems that support decision makers at all levels, from the community health worker and nurse level to health systems supervisors. We focus on providing mobile decision support tools to health workers, and creating health systems to provide them adequate support. We use mobile technology to improve health outcomes by developing supervisory applications, dashboards, mobile money integration for transport, vital events tracking, and point of care diagnostics.

Why do you think mHealth is important / what impact can learning about the use of mobile phones for public health have on development projects?

It is amazing to think about how we can do things more effectively and efficiently using mobile devices, including data collection, applications, closed user groups and telemedicine. At a higher level it is useful to think about how these innovations can be introduced, scaled and supported in order to create significant impact and change.

What are your thoughts on the future of mHealth, and where you think this field is heading?

We’ll see continuing availability of smartphones at all levels of society and the prices will come down further. The price of data and sms will also be reduced and connectivity will increase at greater bandwidth. These forces will allow for increasingly complex mHealth systems to be developed where data, images and video may be able to be shared even in the most remote areas. Point of care diagnostics will continue to evolve, where the prices and power requirements for certain tests will drop to a point that they become more feasible to deploy at the community level. Mobile money, vouchers and mobile insurance will also play a role as the health workers and clients become more familiar with their use in their day to day lives. Power and lack of unique identifiers will remain significant challenges, but innovative solutions should be available soon in areas where we work.

We believe mHealth skills have the potential to make a huge impact in your work. Why do you think taking this class is important, and who would you recommend it to (public health professionals, field workers, etc etc).

This course provides a great overview of different types of mobile technologies and mHealth projects in addition to providing a unique opportunity to connect with a community of implementers and experts in the field. It will also provide some guidance around processes and structures required to include a successful mHealth component to a project. I am a firm believer in the potential of mHealth to radically transform the current state of healthcare. Everyone from policy makers to healthcare workers need to think about how we can use these tools to save lives and help people live healthier, happier lives.

Any advice for someone who wants to make a career in mHealth?

There are many opportunities available for people from all backgrounds. There is a need for people not only with health and technology skills, but also with sociology, anthropology, finance and business, project management and analytics skills. I think it’s important to be conversant in the technology, but to keep exploring these other areas which are critical to the work we are all doing to introduce and support game changing innovation in health systems for the good of the communities we serve.

About Steve
Steve is D-tree’s Chief Operating Officer with over 20 years experience in management consulting, information technology and public health. Steve holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from The American University and a Master’s in Business Administration in Information Systems and Finance from the University of Maryland. He is also a certified Project Management Professional. Prior to joining D-tree, Steve worked for the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative in Tanzania directing programs in Pediatrics, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV, and Rural Care and Treatment.


Mobile Health: How Far We’ve Come

When I first started in the field of technology for development back in around 2010, I was working specifically in global health tech, and there weren’t too many of us around. The idea of using technology in places besides the developed world was just starting to gain traction, and even then, it was limited to mostly technologists and a few health experts. Pilotitis was infecting everyone, and every project I worked on for the first few years was a pilot of some sort, with no solid plan to move beyond that stage. The focus was on finding tools and concepts that showed evidence of working, although that ended up being a more difficult task than everyone expected!

Recognizing this, the mHealth Alliance (formerly part of the United Nations Foundation) created programs to incentivize all the many organizations out there to move past the pilot stage and begin exploring how to scale their projects, and eventually other organizations followed suit. Even then, though, the health field at large was still a bit unsure about how to treat digital interventions, especially in terms of evaluation. Do you measure the success of an SMS stock monitoring tool by just counting how many times it was used, or do you count the many patients who were treated using those very drugs kept in stock? Is there even one right way to measure it?

Additionally, nobody could really agree on what terms like “scale” and “sustainability” meant for mobile health tools. It wasn’t until more recent years that the space has truly started to embrace that the definition of “scale” and “success” varies for each project, and that planning for sustainability is paramount for a mobile health product to truly make an impact.

These days, among many lessons learned, it’s widely recognized that like any technology, mobile health tools are great for targeted usages, but at the end of the day, they are just tools that cannot solve problems on their own. Even the sleekest vaccination reminder system, for instance, must be accompanied by an equally well-run vaccination program for it to really benefit a community.

The mobile health community, additionally, has expanded significantly to include a wide variety of experts and crossover roles, from doctors to designers and software developers to supply chain experts. This has contributed to an increasingly holistic view of mobile health, rather than the siloed space that it once was – which is a good thing! The more perspectives you incorporate into projects, the more likely you are to come up with a truly innovative and engaging product.

Looking Forward in Mobile Health

It’s hard to say what the next big breakthrough in mobile health will be, but we’re already starting to see a rise in the number of projects that incorporate more advanced technologies like sensors and wearables alongside mobile phones. These types of additions have the potential to reduce the amount of time and resources needed to activities that currently serve as barriers to access and utilization of health services. We’re still figuring out how these sorts of tools can be best incorporated into healthcare, even in the western world, but we’re making progress. The UNICEF Innovation team even just began testing the usage of drones to speed up the process of testing infants for HIV, which brings a whole new meaning to the concept of “mobile” health tools!

Personally, I think that the biggest changes coming ahead in the near future will not be so much in the tools themselves, but rather in how we use existing tools. With the rise of patient records and other consolidated data sources around the world, I think we’ll soon be seeing a bit more of personalized medicine in the developing world, which will help bring customized care to places where it otherwise would have been difficult to provide. Similarly, better data analytics will lead to smarter interventions – for instance, we’ll have a much better sense of exactly what types of diagnoses are prevalent in specific areas, and thus be able to better support clinicians with their precise needs. And it may sound crazy, but if you want to really look ahead, I do think we’re much closer than you’d imagine to our futuristic vision of robots supporting clinics in hard-to-reach areas. The technology for that exists; it’ll just be a matter of finding ways to make it affordable, accepted, and safe enough to use! That would open up all kinds of new doors to allowing patients with mobile phones to directly connect to their healthcare.

Regardless of what the future holds, one way that you can be prepared to participate in it is by learning more about the space at large, which is why the TechChange Mobile Phones for Public Health course is such an exciting resource! I look forward to meeting the students taking it and seeing the kind of impact they’re able to create.

About the Author
Priyanka Pathak is a technologist and digital designer whose work focuses on co-designing and co-creating technologies for social impact, especially in global health and STEM education for women. Currently, she is a Senior Designer at the Design Impact Group at Dalberg. Previously, Priyanka worked as an ICT and Innovation Specialist at the World Bank, in addition to having taught courses around design, technology, and social good at Parsons the New School and the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design. Priyanka holds a masters degree in informatics from Columbia University and bachelors degrees in information systems and business from the University of Texas at Austin, and is currently based in Washington, DC.

pathak_profile B&W

Live guest expert sessions are a key, and favorite, aspect of any of TechChange’s four-week, facilitated courses. Held 2-3 times per week, these events give our students the chance to engage with experts in the field and have active discussions. Our guest experts hail from diverse backgrounds and organizations.

Today, we had the opportunity to chat with Melissa Persaud, Director of Partnerships – North America at VOTO Mobile, who will be one of our guest experts for our upcoming mHealth: Mobile Phones for Public Health course. Melissa will be speaking during the second week of the course doing a demo of VOTO Mobile’s tools, before diving into a Q&A session with participants. Check out what she has to say about the field of mHealth!

Can you tell us about your background and experience in mHealth?

As a generalist and M4D enthusiast, I’ve been observing mHealth projects over the past 10 years. Personally, I’m excited by the possibilities technology provides in this space. From the household all the way to major hospitals, there is a role for tech. During my time with VOTO, I’ve been able to explore how pairing mobile phones and information can change and save lives.

How is mHealth incorporated to your work currently?

The beauty of VOTO is its ability to share information and promote behavior change at scale almost instantly. I get to spend my days collaborating with leading health organizations to adapt existing or design new approaches across all health needs. From finding ways to better support, train, and retain frontline and community health workers to thinking about how to disseminate critical and urgent outbreak information directly to households in real time, we are pushing the limits on what you can achieve with a basic mobile phone. I also benefit from learning from other sectors as we co-design projects across all sectors with international and local organizations around the world. For example, we’ve learned that calling Brazilians between 5-7 pm has a 4x higher response rate than 8-10 am. Sharing context-specific information like this helps us all be better development practitioners who provide even better services.

Why do you think mHealth is important / what impact can learning about the use of mobile phones for public health have on development projects?

In my mind, the health sector is one of the most diverse and complex ones out there and there is no silver bullet. With that said, tech does offer some significant enhancements to traditional health projects. You are able to reach more people directly, frequently, and cheaply. This can be incredibly useful ensuring adherence to life-saving drugs or vaccines and it was nearly impossible 15 years ago. Technology also allows us to map the spread of diseases, better understand high need areas, and allocate resources as necessary. Doctors can treat more patients and save lives through telemedicine services. Community health workers can instantly access treatment information for new diseases or rare cases they haven’t been trained on. The list goes on and on. What an opportunity!

What are your thoughts on the future of mHealth, and where you think this field is heading?

I’m particularly interested in demand driven content, where individuals can self-diagnose or learn more about health topics through their mobile phones. Think WebMD on your basic phone. A way people can learn more about their bodies and their health on their own time and without internet connectivity. I’m not sure if this is the future of mHealth, but I will be keeping an eye on it!

We believe mHealth skills have the potential to make a huge impact in your work. Why do you think taking this class is important, and who would you recommend it to (public health professionals, field workers, etc etc)?

One of the biggest challenges in mHealth is that practitioners don’t know where to start. The endless opportunities are often overwhelming and human nature is to stick with the things we know. One thing I hope the mHealth students takeaway from this course is how to think about the problem you are trying to solve and be able to make an informed decision on which mHealth tool will be most appropriate and successful. This skill will prove to be incredibly useful as students advance in their career, in health or otherwise.

Sound interesting and/or valuable to your work? Sign up for our mHealth: Mobile Phones for Public Health class here. Next session begins March 28, 2016!

About Melissa
Melissa Persaud is Director of Partnerships – North America at VOTO Mobile, a Ghana and US-based mobile engagement social enterprise. In her role, she builds and maintains partnerships with impact-oriented organizations in order to provide better choices for more voices around the globe. Personally, Melissa has a passion for program design and implementation, mobile for development (M4D), and financial inclusion. She holds a MPA in development practice from the SIPA at Columbia University and a BA from Lafayette College. Melissa is also a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Cameroon ’11-’13) and is currently based in Washington, D.C.

Melissa_Bio Photo

What does urban design have to do with mental health? By 2050, at least two-thirds of the global population will live in cities, which means urban public health is fast becoming a priority. Policymakers, architects, designers, urban planners and others are starting to think seriously about how to design our cities in ways that reduce health issues like obesity or breathing problems, but one key aspect of urban public health can find itself under the opportunity radar: mental health.

The Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health (UD/MH) hopes to change this. Launching this week in Washington DC, this startup think tank seeks to answer one question: how can we design better mental health into our cities? UD/MH plans to bring together interdisciplinary thinkers and doers to share ideas and find solutions. They will curate research, provide analysis, showcase innovation and host interdisciplinary dialogues in cities all over the world.


We know cities can make us happy. For example, they can facilitate social interaction, deliver low-stress commutes, and may provide us with lovely green spaces. But we also know that cities can also make us less than happy. City living is associated with increased depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia.

Can we adapt the urban environment to improve our mental health and wellbeing? And how can mobile technology help?

Right now, mHealth is emerging as a promising tool to help us understand how urban design affects mental wellbeing. The Urban Mind Project is a current London-based pilot research project that invites people to regularly track their mental wellbeing over the course of a week via a mobile app, which relates their feelings to different aspects of the urban environment. The researchers hope their results will inform future urban planning and social policy on urban design and mental health.

“We can use digital technologies to try to understand how the built environment affects us, affects our well-being and our health, and maybe it sounds a bit too optimistic, but I think it must be possible to build better environments,” says Andrea Mechelli, the lead investigator on the study. “It seems an obvious thing to do, but it’s not really happening. Often, urban planning is motivated by other reasons. Why should it not be motivated by people’s well being and health?”

The Urban Mind Project is a collaboration between King’s College London, J&L Gibbons, Nomad, A&E, the Van Alen Institute and the Sustainable Society Network+. They aim to analyze the data and demonstrate how urban environments affect mental health. One example is looking at the way urban environments can influence whether a person is more or less likely to develop an addiction. If you happen to be in London, you can sign up to participate here.

Screen shot: Urban Mind Project

Screen shot: Urban Mind Project

If you’re not in London, you will soon be able to start tracking urban design and mental health via your phone using Gensler’s new PoppySeed app. PoppySeed plans to crowdsource how different city locations make people feel, and direct them to locations that others associate with positive emotions. The data being gathered by this app is also poised to feed into future decision-making around urban design. Right now, you still need an invitation code to join the fun but here’s a video that gives an overview of the app. mHealth for urban design and mental health is in its infancy, but it is growing and this is an exciting time.

As the Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health gets underway, we can look forward to the results of these experiments, and to others sharing their innovative mHealth projects on the think tank’s Sanity and Urbanity blog. In the meantime, other ways in which urban design can improve mental health will be explored at the UD/MH launch event on July 7th. A limited number of tickets are still available here.

Interested in learning more? We will be exploring initiatives like UD/MH in our upcoming Mapping for Social Good online course that begins on July 20. 

About Layla

Layla McCay

Layla McCay, a TechChange mHealth alumna is a psychiatrist, health policy specialist, and adjunct professor in international health at Georgetown University. Trained at the Maudsley Hospital and Institute of Psychiatry in London, she has worked for the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and several global health NGOs. She is passionate about the determinants of mental health and how people interact with the built environment. Layla is the Director of the Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health, launching on July 7.

By Katie Kelly, Medic Mobile

Maeghan Orton and Dianna Kane, guest speakers at TechChange

Dianna Kane, Senior Designer, and Maeghan Orton, Africa Regional Director, are frontwomen for the Skoll Award Winning nonprofit, Medic Mobile. The groundbreaking technology company is now helping 9,000 health workers in 20 countries reach more people using mobile tools. They’ll be sharing their experience on April 3rd as part of the TechChange course, “Mobile Phones for Public Health”, this Friday.

Attendees of the course will be introduced to the pieces that make up a successful Medic Mobile mHealth partnership. These must be present for a project to be successful, sustainable, and lead to scale.

  1. Tools – Choosing the right tool is not as intuitive as it sounds. You need to employ empathy, human-centered design, and a lot of logic to know what to build for a specific community.
  2. Strategy – Invite the Ministry of Health and other government bodies to get involved early; they can be your greatest advocate and help support your project into the future.
  3. Funding – Your project needs to be secure in its funding in order to continue. You may need to employ creative ways to ensure a projects can sustain itself.
  4. Continuous Design – Your mHealth program needs to keep evolving as the project and user needs change.

Participants will also learn from Medic Mobile’s vast experience employing human-centered design. “Users are at the center of everything we do,” says Dianna, “Our process begins when we sit down with community health workers, nurses, patients, and community members.”

Interested in learning more? Join students from more than 20 countries around the world in the Spring 2015 session of Mobile Phones for Public Health. It is still not too late to sign up! Can’t make it this round? Be sure to mark your calendar for the Fall 2015 session!

About Katie


Katie loves creative storytelling and is excited to shine a spotlight on Medic Mobile’s incredible mission. She comes to Medic Mobile with a background in marketing and advertising, telling stories for big brands like Hershey and Proctor & Gamble and young startups like Rdio and Dot & Bo. Katie has also volunteered her writing for Watsi and DailyGood. She is unabashedly in love with travel, yoga, capture the flag and writing young adult fiction.


By Samita Thapa and Kendra Keith

When we interviewed Nobel Peace Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus, at the 2013 mHealth Summit, he said that mobile phones are the “Aladdin’s lamp for healthcare”, a statement that still rings true today. Two years after that interview, we take a look at how digital health is beginning to expand beyond mobile phones. Mobile phones – especially smartphones – have been revolutionary in health care, especially in developing countries. With budding industries like add-ons to smartphones and wearable tech, the mHealth landscape is evolving.

Here are 5 digital health tools that extend beyond the mobile phone:

1. Pre cancer screening phone attachment

OscanPhoto source: Cellphone Beat

In areas of the world with high amounts of tobacco consumption and limited access to affordable dental care, oral cancer is a major concern. Oral cancer can be prevented with early detection and to equip rural health workers, the OScan team at Stanford university has developed a screening tool that mounts on a camera phone and conducts screenings for oral lesions. The data can then be transmitted to dentists and oral surgeons for assessment. OScan is in the process of conducting field tests with grants from Stanford, Vodafone Americas Foundation, and previously received funding from the mHealth Alliance.

2. STD testing smartphone attachment

Columbia University researchers have created a dongle (an attachment with a specific software) that can plug into Androids or iPhones and conduct tests for HIV and syphilis in about 15 minutes. The attachment costs $34 to manufacture, unlike the current method of conducting these tests in labs which can cost nearly $18,000. The dongle was recently tested in Rwanda on 96 patients and is still under development to improve its accuracy before doing a bigger trial run.

3. Ultrasound attachment for smartphones

Photo source: MobiSante

Seeing how an infant is developing during pregnancy allows any dangers to mother and baby to be addressed at an early stage, and is important to reducing mortalities related to pregnancy and birth. Urban hospitals may be equipped to provide ultrasound services to pregnant women, but it is difficult to extend these services to rural communities. To make ultrasound imaging accessible to everyone, MobiSante, Inc, an imaging technology company has developed a “smartphone based ultrasound device that allows health workers to perform ultrasounds anywhere and share the images via secure Wi-Fi, cellular networks, or USB.” With this attachment, the benefits of ultrasound services can be put in the hands of community health workers in even the most remote clinics.

4. Sensory patch for remote patient monitoring

Wendy Taylor with Smart band-aidPhoto source: Mashable

USAID recently launched the ‘Grand Challenge’ calling for innovative approaches in the fight against the ongoing Ebola crisis. One of the two innovations unveiled at SXSW ‘15 is the multisense memory patch or Smart Band-Aid. It’s a flexible patch that takes a patient’s baseline vitals and measures the changes from the baseline remotely. The vitals can be measured from outside the hot zone, or area containing active ebola cases, as the patch uses a USB cable to transmit data (the final version will use Bluetooth). With 7 – 10 hours of battery life, it costs $100 and is disposable. Wendy Taylor, Director of the USAID Center for Accelerating Innovation (pictured above), calls the smart band-aid a game changer!

5. Data Collection Necklace for Infant Vaccinations

Khushi BabyPhoto source: Khushi Baby

Developed to address the challenge rural clinicians and parents face in documenting children’s vaccination records, Khushi Baby stores children’s medical history in a digital necklace. After winning the Thorne Prize for Social Innovation in Health in 2014, this Yale University classroom project has become an organization and has conducted a successful field test in the village of Mada Daag, India. When vaccinations are administered, the healthcare worker can scan the necklace with their Khushi Baby app on their smartphone to transfer vaccination data to the necklace. The data is also automatically uploaded to the cloud once the healthcare worker returns to the clinic. Parents then receive automatic voice calls reminding them about vaccination clinics and during their next visit, the healthcare worker simply scans the necklace of the baby to see which vaccines are due.

As amazing as mobile phones and these new attachments and wearables are in global health, these new technologies also raise important issues. For example, when it comes to wearables, battery life can be an issue. Erica Kochi, a senior advisor at UNICEF noted that internet connectivity has beat electricity to many rural parts of the world, so access to electricity may still be minimal or non-existent in parts of the world where wearable tech can help. While finding better ways to collect more data is vital in healthcare, data privacy and security is increasingly becoming an important concern as we are realizing that there is too much data to manage.

The overall issue of practicality is another concern. Are these innovative solutions practical, cost-effective, and cost-saving? These are the conversations we will be having in our upcoming mHealth online course. We will be discussing new mHealth approaches like the ones mentioned in this post among others. We have a great group enrolled already and will be hearing from guest experts from organizations like Medic Mobile, National Institutes of Health (NIH), D-Tree International, PATH, and more!

According to a recent report by Grand View Research, Inc., the global market for the mHealth (mobile health) industry will reach $42.12 billion dollars by year 2020. That same year, GSMA estimates that smartphone connections will reach 6 billion, fuelled by growth in the developing world and mobile broadband expansion. The mobile phone market, the largest and most profitable segment of the global device market, is expected to total 1.9 billion units in 2015 alone.

With these high expectations for mHealth and smartphone adoption, what are the biggest opportunities for this $42.12 billion market?

We discussed this topic when we held a panel discussion in partnership with General Assembly DC at their office in Washington, DC in November 2014. In a rare opportunity to combine both “healthies” and “techies” in one room, we gathered a panel including Arthur Sabintsev, lead mobile architect at ID.me and instructor of General Assembly DC’s Mobile Development classes and workshops; Jessica Taaffe, global health and science consultant and writer at the World Bank; and our own Kendra Keith, mobile health specialist; and TechChange CEO Nick Martin – both of whom have facilitated our popular online course on mHealth. During this hour-long panel, we discussed a wide variety of topics on the mobile applications for public health.

Here are some of the highlights of “Mobile Development for Public Health” panel where the panelists shared insights that still ring true across the $42.12 billion dollar mHealth space.

1. mHealth can strengthen health systems

The need to strengthen health systems are the biggest challenges for public health, according to Jessica and Kendra, both of whom hold graduate degrees in microbiology and public health, respectively.

“The greatest opportunities for mHealth field and mobile developers focused on public health are in the public health sector, said Jessica. “The biggest public health issues are governance and figuring out the roles needed to fight infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases that are on the rise, especially as people are living longer.”

There are already several great examples of mHealth apps and programs that are strengthening health systems, including MAMA, MedAfrica, Dimagi, CommCare, and others.

2. mHealth can allow healthcare services to reach more people across the world

The ubiquity and diversity of mobile phones and their global usage will be a key driver of the mHealth industry reaching up to tens of billions of dollars, especially as GSMA estimates that there will be one billion unique mobile subscribers by 2020.

In their experience teaching the one of TechChange’s most popular online courses on mHealth, Nick and Kendra discussed the unique challenges of mHealth outside developed countries.

“Pay-as-you-go mobile phones are the most prominent form of mobiles in developing countries,” said Nick. “This model makes it more affordable for people to get internet access, and it will only get cheaper especially as players like Facebook and Google are ambitiously trying to get the entire world online.”

Clockwise from the top-left: TechChange CEO Nick Martin, mobile developer and General Assembly instructor Arthur Sabintsev, global health expert Jessica Taafe, and TechChange mobile specialist Kendra Keith.

Clockwise from the top-left: TechChange CEO Nick Martin, mobile developer and General Assembly instructor Arthur Sabintsev, global health expert Jessica Taafe, and TechChange mobile specialist Kendra Keith.

3. Mobile development for health will become a hotter space for mobile developers through 2020

As a former nuclear scientist turned mobile developer himself, Arthur stressed how there are never enough mobile developers to meet demand in the current global market, much less the global mHealth market. Across the panel, everyone agreed that is it not easy to become a mobile developer, and to keep up with the quickly-evolving skill set demanded for building modern apps.

“Why aren’t there more developers building mHealth apps? Because it’s hard and time-consuming,” said Arthur. “There’s simply not enough time in a day to keep up with all the different standards for different operating systems, as well as all of their respective constant software updates. Although Android phones are used more in the developing world than iOS in western societies, there is a huge problem of Android fragmentation. What you tend to see more of now is that jobs in mobile development are mostly in the finance and advertising industries. If mHealth is truly going to grow to be worth $42.12 billion dollars, I’m excited to see more mobile dev jobs and incentives for this space to grow.”

So how do you incentivize mobile developers to build more mHealth apps for public health?

Nick mentioned that doing so will not be easy, given that mHealth/public health initiatives are often funded by governments or foundations that have procurement cycles. Though there are some initiatives such as the IBM Watson Venture Fund that has contributed to companies such as WellTok, funding long-term mHealth development has proven tough to sustain so far.

Another opportunity for mHealth will be in protecting the data collected in mHealth apps and programs. mHealth is fraught with mobile data security concerns in places where privacy policies are both well-established or barely existent.

What opportunities do you see for the growing mHealth global market? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet us @TechChange.

If you’re interested in learning more about the opportunities for mHealth, sign up now for our mHealth online course! The next round begins this Monday, 30 March 2015.

By: Carolyn Moore and Lesley-Anne Long
Photo credit: Moses Khanu

Since the launch of the first free Training Health Workers for Ebola webinar series in October 2014, we have seen hundreds of members of the global health community come together to share vital, timely information to save lives and prevent the spread of the disease. This real-time and archived delivery of information has been critical to the continued response. We are excited to be working with partners, IntraHealth International, Ebola Alert, and TechChange, to continue growing this community as the response continues and countries begin to rebuild from the outbreak.

A team of organizations, led by mPowering Frontline Health Workers and IntraHealth International, are coming together to share tools and information on how to support health workers responding to and rebuilding from the Ebola crisis.

Please join us in a three-part webinar series beginning April 1.

Health workers in West Africa have been responding to Ebola since 2013, and, according to the latest WHO situation report, the pace of the outbreak is beginning to decline. This calls for relief and celebration. However, this is far from final for those who have been affected by Ebola.

The virus has left indelible marks on their lives, and their stories are many and severe:

The Ebola situation is once more improving in terms of infection rate, but the socio-economic needs are enormous.” (Moses Khanu, Pastor, Sierra Leone)

What comes next for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three most affected countries? And how can countries nearby and in the region plan for future potentially deadly outbreaks?

Health workers remain at the center of community response and support. At the same time, the governments and international organizations that support health workers are seeking answers for how they can restore health services in West Africa, strengthen health systems, and prepare for future health emergencies.

What’s next for Ebola affected countries?
Many organizations are working closely with all actors across the health sector. In our second series of Training Health Workers for Ebola webinars in April, we will have a group of colleagues who have been working in the affected countries talking about lessons learned and planning for rebuilding and strengthening health systems.

We invite you to join the discussion in the webinars.

Reviewing lessons learned, and looking ahead
These webinars will focus on tools and strategies that health workers, as well as the governments and organizations that support them, can use to continue the response, protect their communities and help rebuild health systems. Free training and information resources are concurrently being posted in the Ebola Resource Center http://www.hrhebolaresources.org/

Please join us in the webinars! Here are the details:

Webinar Schedule:
April 1: Working with Youth, Volunteers, and Vulnerable Populations
April 8: Community Mobilization and Preparedness Planning
April 15: Effective Use of Data

All live sessions will be held from 10.00 – 11.00am EDT.

These webinars will bring together more than 15 international health organizations, led by mPowering Frontline Health Workers and IntraHealth International.

Registration and more information are available here. The webinars are open to all, and will build upon the presentations and discussion in the first Training Health Workers for Ebola series.

All of the webinars will be available for viewing at www.techchange.org after the air dates.

The webinar series has been made possible by the generous support of the USAID-supported Health Communication Capacity Collaborative.

Last week, tens of thousands of participants and over 2,000 exhibitors gathered at the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona to launch and share the latest advances in mobile technology, wearables, virtual reality, gadgets, robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), devices, 5G, and more.

Similar to last year, we decided to take a look at how announcements from MWC15 will impact the developing world.

1. Facebook and Google continue to spearhead ambitious initiatives to get more people across the world online.

As we shared last year, Facebook and Google continue to lead in efforts to get the next billion people around the world online.

In his keynote address, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg advocated for free basic internet services to propel mobile growth in emerging markets. Since launching Internet.org at last year’s MWC, the initiative has now reached Colombia, India, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Ghana.

Separately, Google has been experimenting with several initiatives in its connectivity strategy, including Project Loon or “floating cell towers” project, Google Fiber, and Project Titan – its drone extension of Project Loon.

Google Loon Project

Google Loon Project

Photo credit: SiliconKarne

2. Digital identity and privacy is becoming more significant for mobile consumers

When addressing the audience, GSMA Director General Anne Bouverot discussed the growing importance of digital identity.

“I think digital identity is the new frontier. This is an area where we think we need better services to access services: healthcare, payments, social networks, whatever we’re accessing on the Internet. We want to access them and prove who we are, but we don’t want to necessarily give our mobile numbers and be spammed after that. We haven’t completely found this balance yet, so stay tuned for deployment in mobile connectivity and digital identity in the year to come.” – Anne Bouverot

With mobile security concerns on the rise, this year’s Mobile World Congress also introduced smartphones with privacy in mind. For example, Brazilian phone maker Sikur introduced the GranitePhone which has encryption features designed to ease the privacy concerns of smartphone users.

Sikur GranitePhone

Sikur GranitePhone

Photo credit: Cnet

3. mHealth focus shifting to wearables
Wearable technology was a hot trend at MWC15, especially in the form of fitness trackers, smartwatches, and smartbands. For example, HTC made its big launch of the HTC Grip in partnership with Under Armour and featuring built-in GPS capabilities.

What’s ahead?

Though MWC15 covered many types of emerging technologies beyond mobile including 5G, connected devices, the internet of things, virtual reality, and other topics, the theme of the immense potential of the world’s connectivity resonated throughout the week.

According to Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia, who attend this year’s Mobile World Congress,

Technology is making real and useable internet access available to tens of millions across Africa today and if we think forward 20 years and even 10 years, we’re going to have massive connectivity to the real internet for hundreds of millions of people and this going to have an incredible impact on politics in these places, on society, on trade, and opportunities for all kinds of people.” – Jimmy Wales

What news on MWC15’s impact on developing countries did we miss? Let us know in the comments and/or tweet us @TechChange.

Interested in how MWC15 announcements are impacting Mobiles for International Development and mHealth? Register for these courses now!

GIZ Nepal participants Pushpa Pandey, Valerie Alvarez, and top TechChange student Bikesh Bajracharya with TechChange Communications Associate Samita Thapa, (and TechChange cubebots).

In our most recent mHealth online course, twelve participants from GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) Nepal enrolled in the course to support its mHealth pilot for adolescent sexual and reproductive health. This holiday season, I was fortunate enough to return to my native home of Nepal to meet these TechChange alumni in person at the Nepali-German Health Sector Support Programme (HSSP) at their new office in Sanepa, Nepal. Since the September 2014 mHealth pilot launch, more than 150,000 adolescents have used their interactive service.

Nepal’s National Health Education, Information and Communication Center (NHEICC) developed a National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Communication Strategy (2011 – 2015) that stressed strongly the use of modern methods of communication in its implementation. GIZ, Health for Life (H4L), and the UN Population Fund partnered under NHEICC’s leadership to initiate this SMS based mHealth project – the first in Nepal. The SMS messages and interactive package focus on delaying marriage and pregnancy, healthy timing and spacing of babies, health and hygiene, and addressing gender based violence. The local mobile services provider, Nepal Telecom and NCELL, distributed the interactive SMS package that includes an encyclopedia, role model stories, quizzes, and a hotline for further questions.

Mr Khaga Raj Adhikari, Minister, Ministry of Health and Population launching ‘m4ASRH’ (Mobile for Adolescent Sexual & Reproductive Health) on 18 September 2014.

Mr Khaga Raj Adhikari, Minister, Ministry of Health and Population launching ‘m4ASRH’ (Mobile for Adolescent Sexual & Reproductive Health) on 18 September 2014.

Since Pushpa had shared the status of the GIZ mHealth pilot in Nepal as her final project for the mHealth online course the day before we met, it was especially great to catch up with her in person! She expressed that this mHealth course was much more engaging and fun to complete than other online courses she has tried out. Bikesh, the top user in our course with over 400 tech points, is new to the GIZ team and very excited to apply what he has learned in the mHealth course to his work in Nepal. Valerie recently arrived in Nepal and very new to the GIZ-team, was also excited to learn how much the other participants were engaging and that she can still access all course material for four more months.

All three GIZ Nepal participants shared their astonishment on how many tech points Bikesh was able to stack up in the course and also the fantastic course facilitation by Kendra. They also admitted that hearing Pushpa present in the mHealth course gave them insights that they weren’t aware of even though they work at the same office. While taking a technological approach to development projects in a country like Nepal can be challenging, it is an even bigger challenge to get the government’s buy in. It was exciting to learn that despite some hurdles, this mHealth pilot was an initiative supported by the government of Nepal.

We are excited for the future of mHealth in Nepal and wish GIZ all the best in their continued success! We are also excited to welcome six more participants from GIZ Nepal in our upcoming Technology for Monitoring and Evaluation course in January to better measure the impact of this mHealth pilot! It is wonderful to see how GIZ is committed to mHealth and M&E through their investment in technology capacity building in Nepal.