An innovation by four university students that translates the local dialect into English or Kiswahili to make it easier for doctors to diagnose patients’ symptoms remotely has emerged as the overall winner of the fourth season of the Game of Learners (GoL) competition. The solution, dubbed ‘Jambo Care,’ was developed by Team Ruby, which beat 16 other teams from universities across Africa to win the season on Friday. This season’s challenge aimed to develop technological solutions for Africa’s health challenges and featured more than 80 students from 11 African countries, with an equal balance of men and women.
This season, the Microsoft African Development Centre (ADC) partnered with Population Services International (PSI) and AMREF Health Africa in a five-week hackathon to design and build technology solutions that make primary healthcare more accessible to people. This was informed by the fact that African healthcare systems face several challenges, including inadequate health infrastructure, a shortage of healthcare personnel, limited access to essential medicines, low health literacy, and poor health-seeking behaviour. This makes it difficult for individuals and communities to receive high-quality care. Increasing access to affordable digital technology provides an opportunity to address these challenges.
(TOP: (L–R) Lucy Alphonce, Team Ruby team captain, receives the Game of Learners trophy from Kitawa Wemo, Innovations Lead at AMREF Health Africa, Sheila Mutheu, Global Senior Manager Digital Health and Monitoring at PSI, and Catherine Muraga, the MD, Microsoft Africa Development Centre. Team Ruby’s innovation, a local language translator application for use in hospitals was named the champion of Season 4 of Game of Learners. BELOW: L–R – Frederick Adhing’a; Lucy Alphonce, the Team Ruby captain; Shimanyi Valentino, the ADC Coach of Team Ruby; Caroline Njeri; and Emeldah Matengo, at the finale of the Game of Learners competition. Team Ruby’s innovation, a Kenyan language translator app for use in hospitals, beat out 15 other teams to win Season 4 of Game Learners).
Speaking about their innovation, Lucy Alphonce, the Team Ruby captain, said: “Our translator aims to bridge the communication gap whereby the healthcare provider and the recipient don’t have a common language of communication. This will ensure effective healthcare delivery.”
This season of the GOL sought to answer the question of how advances in digital technology can improve consumers’ access to health information, products, and services. Throughout the season, the three partners provided participants with tailored training on health system challenges, digital health development principles, and how to use insights to advance user-centred designs. Other topics addressed included customer acquisition for digital health solutions and health financing. In five groups, participants had five weeks to develop solutions, including the most recent advancements in digital health technology, such as Artificial Intelligence, Telemedicine, and Chatbot solutions.
Speaking at the Season Finale, Ruth Ferland, the Regional Head of Student & Community Engagements at Microsoft ADC, said: “As part of this year’s competition, we challenged participants to delve into the healthcare sector, identify a unique challenge, and design a tech-based solution. Through the competition, we can obtain what we hope will be a creative solution to one of our long-standing healthcare challenges and assist them in learning more about technology and how to use it for good.”
As part of the next steps, PSI will provide some students with internship opportunities to progress their knowledge in digital health. At the same time, AMREF Health will offer 3-months of technical support to the best two teams to advance their innovations. On her part, Ferland challenged the students aiming to take their projects to the next level to resubmit them in the Microsoft Imagine Cup, the premier global student technology competition that offers students the opportunity to unleash their passion and purpose to develop inspiring leading-edge technology solutions in one of four competition categories—Earth, Education, Health, and Lifestyle.
Speaking at the event, Wycliffe Waweru, PSI’s Deputy Director of Digital Health & Monitoring, said: “As PSI, we are looking at two opportunities to advance these innovations by the students. First, we are looking for an opportunity with innovation hubs that can host some of the solutions that the young people have developed and see if they can be brought to market. For individuals interested in pursuing a career in digital health, we shall offer internships for them to come and work with our teams for practical and hands-on interaction with other digital health solutions.”
On her part, Kitawa Wemo, the Innovations Lead at AMREF Health, said: “For us, our digital and data strategy is focused on supporting young people that are building digital technologies for health. As a result, we are thrilled to have collaborated with Microsoft ADC and PSI on this noble initiative, which is part of efforts to integrate global health and digital skills. By leveraging digital technologies, we can improve data management, promote telemedicine and remote patient monitoring, provide health education, and promote global collaboration and knowledge-sharing.”
Microsoft launched the Africa Development Centre (ADC) in 2019 with an initial site within Microsoft offices in Nairobi, Kenya, and another in Lagos, Nigeria. The centre aims to attract world-class African engineering talent to create innovative solutions spanning the intelligent cloud and edge. Since its inception in Nairobi in 2019, the ADC has grown to over 500 full-time employees in software engineering, machine learning, data science, market research, infrastructure, and much more.
Population Services International (PSI) is a global non-profit organization that encourages healthy behaviour and delivers affordable health products and services worldwide. PSI takes a business approach to saving lives and designing effective, sustainable solutions to the world’s biggest challenges in healthcare.
Amref Health Africa was founded in 1957 as the Flying Doctors of East Africa, providing critical health care to remote communities in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The organization has since become the largest African-based international health development organization. The organisaton is implementing more than 140 programs, directly reaching over 12 million people across 35 African countries. Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, Amref Health Africa has offices in seven country offices in Africa and an additional eleven advocacy and fundraising offices in Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Monaco, Spain, Sweden (covering Nordic countries), the UK and the US. In 2019, Amref operated on an annual budget of approximately $115 million.