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Mobile Health Opportunities in Kenya

After twelve years of being away, I’m spending some time in Kenya getting re-acquainted with the land of my birth.

I marvel at some of the advances this ‘developing’ country has made in the last decade – mainly in technology and infrastructure. For starters, the adoption and use of cell phones is remarkable. By mid-2011 mobile penetration was over 63%. That means that 25 million out of a 38.6 million Kenyans owned a mobile phone last year.

Mobile-Healthcare Marketing

Sadly while mobile technology is advancing in Kenya, healthcare services are not moving at the same pace. The ratio of doctors to patients in Kenya is 6 to 1000. Even worse, the lack of public information on essential healthcare services makes it easier for poor people to suffer and die of very treatable diseases.

It therefore makes sense that mobile technology is the logical way to provide basic healthcare information to Kenyans. One local company that is exploring this opportunity is Shimba Technologies. Last Fall, they launched MedAfrica an app that positions itself as the go-to-resource for connected Kenyans seeking health-related information.

MedAfrica app for Android and Symbian

MedAfrica app provides health-related content in developing countries

MedAfrica is still in beta and is currently acting as a yellow pages for medical services by providing listings of doctors in local areas. Unfortunately their website doesn’t offer much content that can provide more details about the app.

The Gap

Based on my personal observations, apps such as MedAfrica are more beneficial to smart-phone carrying city-folk looking for reputable healthcare services in Kenya. Country folk – the poor majority that lacks access to essential public health information – typically carry simple phones such as the Nokia 1280. Such phones don’t have the capability to support mobile app technology. They are more suited to SMS and in some cases even MMS mobile campaigns.

The Opportunity

Mobile marketing companies wishing to reach and impact the greatest number of Kenyans with healthcare information need to recognize the differences in mobile equipment and consider the limitations of various devices and/or platforms. That way they can target different markets with campaigns that are relevant and useful to them.

The MedAfrica app – a great idea-in-the-making – may not have as great an impact on those who are dying (excuse the pun) for essential health-related information because it is limited to Android and Symbian platforms. Mobile marketing companies need to explore simpler campaigns that are easily accessible on simple mobile phones in order to reach the masses.

Over to you: What ideas or tips do you have for mobile marketing companies looking to reach developing countries such as Kenya?




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