Wednesday April 17 2013

Students develop phone software to fight malaria



Malaria is responsible for more illnesses and deaths than any other single disease in the country, according to the Ministry of Health.

Most of the people affected are low income earners, especially those that live in rural areas, and many of these cannot afford to go to hospitals, most of which are sparsely distributed. It is against this background that four students from Makerere University have formulated a mobile phone application “Matatibu” that will be able to diagnose Malaria patients without a single prick on their skin, as well as showing them where the available treatment centre is located.

The four; Josiah Kavuma, Simon Lubambo, Brian Gitta and Joshua Bujjo, together in a group-Code8, showcased the module of the application and the Imagine Africa Cup smart phone applications competition at Makerere University on Monday.

“Our main inspiration is really the number of deaths that are recorded by the ministry, especially among infants. We are sure we can create a difference if the application materialises,” Kavuma, the head of the team, said.

They won the competition which guarantees them automatic qualification to represent Uganda at the worldwide Imagine Cup competition in St Pittsburg, Russia in July. “United Nations and Microsoft are focusing on reducing the number of people dying from malaria due to lack of support and it is the reason this group has emerged the winners,” Mr Drake Mirembe, the head judge, said.

The advantages
He added: “The good thing with this application is that it can help us plot incidents of malaria and it can also help the ministry [of Health] in surveillance of malaria cases in the country such that they can accord necessary assistance.”

Last year, College of Computing and Information Sciences have won a $50,000 grant (about Shs130m) for designing an ultra sound application- Winsenga- an application that performs ultrasound on pregnant women and detects problems such as ectopic pregnancies or abnormal foetal heart beats.

A recent report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers in India estimates that in Uganda alone, about 31,200 lives could be saved in five years if mobile phone messages were sent as a treatment intervention.