As international alarm raises around the deadly outbreak of Ebola that is raging in West Africa, the medical community is looking into how mobile health technology can be of aid to contain the virus that has killed nearly 1,000 people at the time of this writing. The swift proliferation of the virus has caused countries including Liberia and the Ivory Coast to close their doors to refugees to focus on quarantining the outbreak. While mobile health tech is still somewhat in its beginning stages of use, it is increasingly being looked at as a resource for bringing medical support to infected regions.
South African leaders have announced that the country will send a mobile laboratory to West Africa to support treatment in countries affected by the virus. Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi and the Southern African Development Community have been collaborating to figure out how to aid infected countries, and also to stem the outbreak from traveling any further.
Health officials have been working on activating an international phone network through which Liberians in the U.S. can inform and warn their relatives in West Africa about the virus as many locals are not familiar with the nature of Ebola, how it spreads, or how to seek treatment.
Mobile health projects in Africa are a focus for medical and technology companies alike. Samsung most recently partnered with the GSMA to launch the Mobile for Development mHealth program aimed at providing a range of mobile health services to women and children. With a focus on nutrition across Sub-Saharan Africa, the project will target pregnant women and mothers. Other initiatives have abounded this year: Mobilium Global is launching an application for mobile users in Africa that is targeted at reducing viral transmissions, among other health-related goals.
Of course, mobile technology is not of much use without internet connections — something that Facebook is actively trying to move along. Several big-name tech companies including Google and Microsoft are exploring how to connect regions in Africa with no internet, but Facebook has been the latest to launch some relevant technology. Its Internet.org app is being touted as a resource — particularly for mobile health purposes — in Zambia for folks with little to no access. Through Internet.org, users have access to a multitude of applications, and the ones like Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action will be key for moving along mobile health.