Feature Story

Innovative health care solutions within reach as UNFPA project grooms young social entrepreneurs

3 June 2017
Team Stre@mline Demo Day Winners from UpAccelerate (LR Lydia Mbaziira, Samuel Mugisha, Phaisal Lubega, Joseph Katetemera © UNFPA/Charles Otine

Following a rigorous four- month programme of mentorship, business training, technical guidance and product development, three innovative health care solutions are set to hit the market supported by UNFPA Uganda’s Up Accelerate project.

At a colourful demo ceremony presided over by the Permanent Secretary Ministry of ICT Uganda Mr. Vincent Bagire , three teams of young tech developers and entrepreneurs carried out demonstrations of their solutions in front of a panel of judges, potential investors and fellow innovators.

They products on display included:

  • Stre@mline (also known as SNAP HMIS), a web and mobile application that supports health workers to collect data on their clinical activities and display it visually, to aid real time decision making.
  • TEHECA: A tool  meant to help  solve the problem of limited availability of health care workers by linking expectant and new mothers with alternative healthcare workers to provide timely care- “uberizing” health care
  • Drug Dash enables health centres to capture data on drug supply and consumption patterns and use the data to support decision making including re-distribution of supplies from overstocked to understocked facilities.

The team of judges also awarded Stre@mline a certificate for having the most integrated and market ready solution among the three.

Understandably, the team members were excited:

 “As a team, winning is validation for us. It is also a challenge for us to make sure we deliver what we say. We have gained so much from the Up Accelerate program. Everybody needs a mentor and that's what Up Accelerate has been to us. The program has been very educative and has helped us think about all aspects of our business,” said Stre@mline’s Samuel Mugisha.

 

Supporting young people to lead on innovative reproductive health solutions

Up Accelerate is a one-year innovative program, that seeks to explore new and engaging ways to tackle pressing sexual and reproductive health challenges in Uganda, while promoting social entrepreneurship among young people.  It is part of a regional initiative by UNFPA East and Southern Africa Regional Office, with funding from UK- AID. The initiative in Uganda is implemented by UNFPA Uganda in partnership with Outbox a local hybrid incubator that specializes in supporting entrepreneurs to build high-growth businesses using technology. It is also supported by the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology and National Guidance. The program is currently in its second cycle, the first of which came to an end following the demo event.

Up Accelerate is premised on the fact that young people face several barriers to sexual and reproductive health information and services, making them vulnerable to challenges that include  teenage pregnancy, high rates of HIV infection all of which impact on their  education and, in the long run,  employment opportunities.

Investing in young people’s health and education is critical to ensuring that the country reaps a demographic dividend (a window of opportunity for accelerated economic growth that might result from a change in the population age structure, where there are more people in the labour force and fewer dependents).

“Investing in a healthier and more educated population and enabling young people to access opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship, will provide young Ugandans with a favourable environment to thrive in business and private life, and to make informed and safe decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health,” said Davide Piga, UNFPA ESARO’s Innovations and Knowledge Management Specialist at the demo event. 

 

Hitting the market

Following the successful demo event, the teams are now expected to move forward with finding markets and investors for their products, and they feel ready. “We now have the visibility and credibility that is vital for our product. In addition through the Up Accelerate project we have made very productive connections with people we would probably never have met on our own. We have been trained on how to move from idea to solutions and right into the market,” says Joseph Katetemera, also a member of team Stre@mline.

Outbox and UNFPA will continue to support the teams through partnerships and mentorship after the program that could enable them raise money and buyers for their products. 

Already, Stre@mline has tested the platform in two hospitals in Western Uganda; over 60,000 patient records have been gathered. The product has also attracted interest from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute who are interested in piloting the system in another hospital in Western Uganda. Drug Dash is being implemented in Bukedea district, which is one of the UNFPA supported districts, while TEHECA has reached up-to 600 people through their awareness campaigns, and are supporting up-to 5 expectant mothers.

 

Looking forward: Cycle Two

With the three winning teams now ready to go to market, the second acceleration cycle has kicked off and is set to run up to September 2017. Following the demo event, 4 new startups were selected for  the accelerator programme - which consists of mentorship, business development & technical training, and seed funding of up-to $10,000 each for a period of four months to support them tackle sexual reproductive health challenges.

  • Blood Finder - monitors in real time the amount of blood type in health facilities and locates nearest available supply of a specific blood type in surrounding facilities for quick referral of mothers in need of blood transfusion. 
  • Health Data Harvester - a mobile app that aims to digitize the process of patient data collection at health facility level.
  • Eco Smart Pad - A low cost sanitary towel made from sugarcane for girls in rural communities
  • mScan - a portable ultrasound scanner made of a smartphone and a probe for pregnant women in rural areas

 

Story by Charles Otine&Martha Songa