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Communications deputy trumpets importance of mHealth services in South Africa

South Africa’s Deputy Communications Minister Obed Bapela has called for the widespread adoption of mobile health services across the country. Speaking at the GSMA-mHA Mobile Health Summit, the deputy minister said: “ICT is essential to improving the quality of life, particularly in rural areas… mobile health can indeed play a significant role in reaching this objective. It can contribute to a long and healthy life for all South Africans.”

Noting that mHealth services could be distributed easily across the country due to the high mobile penetration rate, Bapela listed four key ways in which South Africa would benefit from such services. These included raising the average life expectancy, reducing infant mortality rates, fighting disease including HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, and augmenting the country’s health ecosystem.

However, Bapela also highlighted that mHealth services would need a low price point in order to reach the entire population, saying: “Paramount to [mass market adoption] is the question of affordability – the cost of communication in Africa remains high.”

The deputy minister also stated that mHealth services should augment existing eHealth services, rather than being considered as a separate entity. “Mobile health should fully comply with the National Health Act in terms of privacy and doctor/patient confidentiality… Lastly mobile health should align with health counsels’ ethical guidelines,” he added.

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