Nominet Trust, the UK’s leading tech-for-good funder named three world-class eHealth ventures in SA on their Nominet 100 list.

The startups, Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), TxAlert and Young Africa Live (YAL) were identified because they showcase the transformative power of health-dedicated technology. They also fostered learning, provided insights and tackled social challenges in healthcare in South Africa.

MAMA is an initiative that provides mothers with useful content pre and post birth. Users register for MAMA at a public health facility to access content via Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) service. Alternately, expecting and new mothers can use MAMA’s Mxit portal, an online community portal called askmama.mobi or receive SMS’s from the program offered through six Johannesburg clinics.

“They taught me what to put in my hospital bag, the danger signs and when to go to the hospital so I didn’t have any problems when I delivered,” said a MAMA user.

Due to MAMA’s success in Bangladesh it was launched in SA in May 2013. Wits RHI, Cell-life and the Praekelt Foundation collaborated to harness their technical and content expertise to provide access to clinical services, evaluation and research. A year after its launch in SA, MAMA boasts 300 000 subscribers.

“With the spread of mobile phone technology even to the poorest communities, we now have the ability to get that information directly into the hands of women who need it most,” says Executive Director of MAMA, Kirsten Gagnaire.

TxtAlert is another messaging service that sends automated and personalised SMS notifications to patients with chronic conditions such as HIV/AIDS from health facilities. Patients are notified of their next medical appointment and the platform allows them to reschedule if necessary by way of a ‘Please Call Me’. TxtAlert is open source and available for all health facilities to download.

TxtAlert’s primary aim is to improve the flow of patients at treatment sites and decrease the amount of patients who discontinue treatment and become at risk of becoming resistant to medication.

The messaging system has been used for over two years to send ART reminders and is currently being expanded to introduce a TB and Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMCT) messaging protocol. The foundation aims to launch a ‘TxtAlert Corporate’ package that integrates with a company’s Employee Wellness programme.

Praekelt’s Young Africa Live (YAL) project launched on 1 December 2009 and is one of the largest private social networks for HIV/AIDS information and education in SA with 108 million users. The network operates on a platform similar to Facebook where chats may be entered into with doctors and relationship experts. Guest bloggers also share their experiences about social and cultural dilemmas.

YAL is based on a model that is entertainment-orientated, fun, interactive and publishes provocative content that moves young people to participate, promote and produce dialogue relating to HIV/AIDS and issues that impact their day to day lives.

Other local mHealth initiatives that made it onto the list include Project Masiluleke, an mHealth initiative fighting the AIDS epidemic; The Open Medicine Project in SA (TOMPSA) which provides a triage and an Emergency Medicine Guidance apps.

“More people than ever before are using technology to solve problems that matter to them in bold new ways. This year’s NT100 list is populated by extraordinary people with inspirational stories to tell and it shows us that imagination, social conscience and technology make a potent mix to affect change,” said CEO of Nominet Trust, Annika Small.

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