Nokia leads way in offering health information through mobile applications

…Maisha App on Ovi Store set to help millions of nurturing mothers with crucial health information    
Nairobi, Kenya, July: The mobile phone has been around for just over a decade and is bringing positive and dramatic developments sub-Saharan Africa. And now, mobile applications, embedded and easily accessible on many handsets will fuel economic growth in the region.  
Much is happening in money transfer and market-information exchange through mobile phones, resulting to significant macro-economic gains, not least in middle and small-scale businesses found in Kenya. Since its launch four years ago, for example, MPESA, hugely successful money-transfer service by Safaricom has helped transfer about Kshs 908 billion (US$ 9.98 billion) in cumulative transactions up to March 2011 with 13 million subscribers actively using it.
However, it is in the area of health that the mobile phone may bring about far-reaching benefits given the extent of mortality in the region. Mobile health (mHealth) applications are expected to increase tremendously as demand rises. Pyramid, a researcher, said in a recent report the current number of applications (about 200 million) could triple by next year.
Health applications are critical as one tool to tackle child mortality in Kenya and other developing countries. According to data from World Health Organization (WHO) almost 9 million children still die each year before they reach their fifth birthday. The highest rates of child mortality continue to be found in sub-Saharan Africa where 2008 one in seven children died before their fifth birthday. The causes of child deaths in developing countries are related to malnutrition and lack of access to adequate primary healthcare and infrastructure but mobile applications can help reduce the incidence of these deaths, according to heath experts.
The Pyramid survey found that about 70 percent of people worldwide are interested in having access to at least one m-Health application, and they’re willing to pay for it. The demand is expected to rise especially because new innovations in the mobile healthcare market are expected to drive down costs soon while quickly expanding access and improving quality.
The study said technology and telecommunications providers are well positioned for developing, extending and marketing mHealth applications as many of these players already have established relationships with healthcare providers and payers, and many benefit from large, global scale.
And now Nokia, the world’s largest handsets maker is taking the lead in provision of mHealth apps such as Maisha which is free on its Ovi Store. Agatha Gikunda, the Nokia’s Head of Solutions Sales in East and Southern Africa says developing health apps is scalable in Kenya because they can run on affordable phones and data is relatively cheaper in Kenya compared to other emerging markets.
“Going to market with the Ministry of Health and other private sector organizations will lend credibility and scalability to use of applications such as Maisha. Nokia currently has more than half the market share of mobile devices with approximately 35 percent of them being GPRS enabled.”
Maisha App targets first-time and expectant mothers in rural areas that have difficulty in accessing information crucial not only to their health but also that of their babies. Once downloaded, the app offers, among other things, a wide range of info spanning nutrition tips, immunization reminders and symptoms of diseases and even where to find hospitals in a given locality.
More importantly, the app offers an audio option in two local languages, Luo and Kikuyu, in addition to English and Kiswahili for those who are illiterate.  
“The app has an audio book system because most rural women in Africa may not be literate enough to read. The audio recordings can be made in a variety of local languages, making the application scalable across markets not only in Africa, but across the world. As MAPs/Navigation technology has now moved to S40 software, we will target to incorporate some location based features that utilise Ovi Maps,” says Ms Gikunda.
Nokia’s action represents a trend being adopted not only by other players but also by governments worldwide. According to the WHO, mHealth is being applied in maternal and child health, and programmes reducing the burden of the diseases linked with poverty, some of the common characteristics in sub-Saharan Africa.
As Ms Gikunda says, Maisha app may have about 900 applications downloads from the Ovi Store so far, since its launch in last March, but its presence on Ovi Store may help bring about unprecedented socio-economic changes and save millions of children in Kenya and Africa at large.

About Nokia
At Nokia, we are committed to connecting people. We combine advanced technology with personalized services that enable people to stay close to what matters to them. Every day, more than 1.3 billion people connect to one another with a Nokia device – from mobile phones to advanced smartphones and high-performance mobile computers. Today, Nokia is integrating its devices with innovative services through Ovi (, including music, maps, apps, email and more. Nokia's NAVTEQ is a leader in comprehensive digital mapping and navigation services, while Nokia Siemens Networks provides equipment, services and solutions for communications networks globally.
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