Sunday April 23 2017

Shs36m up for young people interested in building innovative health products  

DrugDash team carries out needs finding at a

DrugDash team carries out needs finding at a health center in Bukedea district. Photo by EDGAR R. BATTE 

By EDGAR R. BATTE

A pilot project titled Up Accelerate that supports young entrepreneurs in addressing issues to do with sexual reproductive health, is calling for innovators who can address post-labour complications.

The programme is implemented by Outbox with support from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). It provides multiple benefits that include funding of up-to $10,000 (about Shs36m), business training, technical guidance and mentorship over a period of four months in order to develop products that are ready to be brought to the market.

Outbox is a business incubator, co-working space and training facility that specialises in supporting African entrepreneurs interested in using technology to build high-growth businesses while UNFPA works to ensure universal access to reproductive health, including family planning and sexual health.

According to Richard Zulu, founder of Outbox, interested young people are called on to submit their proposed solutions to address challenges in distribution and demand of maternal health supplies and use of open data in healthcare. Those interested in applying have up to April 30th to submit their proposal onto the ‘Up Accelerate’ website, http://upaccelerate.co.ug.

“Anyone can apply to the programme, as long as they are interested in addressing challenges in health, love social businesses, have the time to dedicate to the intensive support programme and are 18 - 30 years of age. Some of the former participants loved the aspect that the programme allows you to improve on your idea because you are offered feedback and can edit your submission until the deadline. This means that you receive support to make your idea one of good quality,” Zulu further explains.

In the first cycle of the programme, teams from Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Kampala, International Health Sciences University, and other non-students developed promising business solutions to address the pressing issues of drug expiries and stock-outs in health facilities; linking professional healthcare providers with expectant and new mothers; addressing post-labour complications; and leveraging on data to improve quality of care in Ugandan health facilities.

One of the teams, DrugDash, is building a system to enable health centres and drug distribution organisations carry out drug stock returns, so as to understand the trends of consumption through visual reports. DrugDash is now piloting with health facilities in Bukedea District, in the eastern region of Uganda.

Joanitah Nalubega, a member of DrugDash, one of the winning teams, explains that within the Up Accelerate programme, she has learnt the value of talking and interacting with customers early on in the process of building a solution.

She adds, “Engaging with stakeholders provided me with great insights on whether they would pay for our product.” iDrain is building a chest drainage system to allow for drainage of pleural effusions from the lungs.

Other teams include: SNAP HMIS, a mobile and web application to enable health workers easily collect data on their clinical activities and have it displayed in a visual way to support easy decision-making.

Teheca, another team, is offering on-demand dedicated patient care to expectant and new mothers through qualified health care professionals.

Zulu also explains that the teams in the programme were selected based on the feasibility of their innovations, the opportunity to create impact, the business models of the solutions and how they address issues in sexual reproductive health.

According to the executive director, James Saaka, of National Information Technology Authority - Uganda (NITA-U) - an autonomous statutory body established under the NITA-U Act 2009, to coordinate and regulate Information Technology services in Uganda, the government has created an innovation fund that will provide financial support to innovators, developers and innovation hubs so as to commercialise and accelerate innovation in the country.

Saaka adds, “NITA-U is committed to supporting initiatives like Up Accelerate that seek to identify and promote youth innovation and talent.”

rbatte@ug.nationmedia.com

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