WASHINGTON – Millions of Africans now receive critical health information on their cell phones, according to speakers at a CCLP forum here yesterday, with the Voice of America alone reaching tens of millions of Africans a week.
“VOA’s African Health Network is a multimedia initiative in thirteen languages that reaches 50 million people a week,” said Nancy Coviello, the AHN’s Project Manager. “Literally no one else is doing this – not the BBC, Deutsche Welle, not anyone that we can find.”
Critical health information now transmitted to cell phones now includes providing reminders to pregnant mothers, alerting hospitals when emergencies occur, and even sending money through mobile phones to fistula victims, according to Joan Mower, Director of Development and International Media Training for the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
Delivering critical health information via cell phones is also taking off in home-grown African projects, including several begun by an initiative funded by the Knight Foundation.
“One of the things we are trying to do is to take advantage of the explosion of mobile,” said Jerelyn Eddings, Program Director for the International Center for Journalists, who supervises many of the Knight projects.
Eddings pointed to the work of Justin Arenstein, a Knight Journalism Fellow in South Africa, as an example. Arenstein raised $1 million to launch the Africa News Innovation Challenge, which just announced 20 winners in 13 countries. Eddings described the winners as “very ambitious.”
“Mobile is growing exponentially in Africa,” observed Mower, who cited data showing that by 2015, 800 million African will have cell phones.
“In Nigeria, a country of 140 million people, 85 percent of urban dwellers already have cell phones,” she added.
The Africa Health Network (AHN) is a VOA initiative focusing on health news and information for audiences in sub-Saharan Africa to help them improve their quality of life. For more information on the VOA AHN initiative click through to the following presentation presented at the forum: African Health Network (Mobile).pdf