The other day i was sitting at home waiting eagerly for a World Cup game, i happened to be scrolling the channels and decided to listen in on a Parliamentary session on Health Care in remote parts of Kenya.
In this case the MP from Samburu North stood up to demand from the Minister of Medical Services why they had not built a District Hospital in his constituency after having promised to do so way back in 2004.
In his response the Minister said that he needed to have around 750 million to 1 billion Kenya Shillings to build the Hostipal and therefore because treasury had only given him like 16 billion for this year that hospital would never get built.
Being a Sociologist as well as a Techie I immediately wanted to stand up on a point of order and if i was in parliament this is what I would have said.
Me: Mr speaker Sir! I would like to inform the Minister of Medical Services that with 1 billion shillings you would solve about 70% of all medical problems in this country.
The response would probably have been something like this…
Minister: Is it in order that the Honourable MP of Kariamandu should mislead the house that he can solve almost all medical problems in this country with 1 billion shillings. Is he some sort of a Magician??? (MURMURS & SOME LAUGHTER)
Speaker: Orderrrr, Honourable Mp please clarify what you said or I will have to find you out of order and recommend that you visit the nearest Hospital as soon as possible. (HOUSE LAUGHTER)
Me: Yeee… Yes Mr Speaker sir, i wish to clarify my statement with a brief statement… allow me 10 minutes to do so .
Speaker: (THINKING)mmmh If at the end of this ten minutes i feel stupider i will rule you out of order and request that you come back with a written letter from a Psychiatrist before we let you back in the house. (HOUSE LAUGHTER) PROCEEEEED!!!
Me: Thank you Sir, Mr speaker Sir i believe that you have a mobile phone perhaps even now in your pocket. As you are probably aware the mobile phone today has allowed Kenyans to communicate with each other and even for some allowed them to keep money in some form of virtual account that they can easily access and transact business with. As you will appreciate this has opened up the economy in ways that we could have only dreamed of 10 years ago…
Speaker: I am all ears, go on…
Me: Mr Speaker today i want to talk about opening up not just the economy but also social aspects of our people and in particular health.
In this regard i would like to inform the Honourable from Samburu North that the hospital he is asking for will probably never be built at least not in his lifetime.
MP for Samburu North: Point of order!!!Mr speaker point of order…
Speaker: Order!!! Mp for Samburu…
MP for S N: Is it in order for the MP of Kariamandu to condemn my people to death in this manner…
Speaker: (NODS IN MY DIRECTION)
Me: Mr speaker sir i am mearly illustrating the point that if we are to build 254 district hospitals in Kenya and it takes 3 years to even get 1 project approved, we would require trillions of Shillings which we don’t have and many decades to complete them, as such many of us may not live to see hospitals in our constituencies.
You see Mr speaker the good news is today we have the technology to meet the health needs of our people by bypassing the huge cost of setting up huge physical structures.
I am only suggesting that we make use of fairly sophisticated but much cheaper mobile technologies and focus on offering services when and wherever they are needed.
I will give you one example. I have in my pocket the new iPhone 4G which i have just bought from my recent trip to London.
Speaker: Mp, If i thought that your presentation would involve you boastfully flashing your new phone in the house i would have come with mine… (HOUSE LAUGHTER)
Me: Indulge me Mr speaker you have already gone so far…
Speaker: Consider yourself indulged… Proceed!
Me: Thank you…You see more than any other device (ever invented) this device can be used to solve real world problems in real time . I will give you one critical Kenyan based example.
Imagine you are a surgeon or doctor stuck somewhere in Samburu North where there is no electricity, no hospital, no nothing but you happen to have your Surgeon’s kit with you and a critically ill individual complaining of unimaginable pain somewhere in his belly.
Speaker: Imagining… (HOUSE LAUGHTER)
Me: You are not quite sure what the problem is but if you can (once you open up the belly ) relay the pictures to Jane (your colleague in Nairobi) a more experienced surgeon she should be able to tell you within seconds what to cut in your patient.
Without a camera and without Jane the man in pain is probably as good as dead in the next few minutes.
Step in the iPhone 4. (FLASHING PHONE)
The iPhone 4 has 2 cameras one in the front, 8 megapixel and one in the back 5 megapixels. With 5 million pixels per square inch the surgeon can take High Definition Video/Pictures and even relay them in real time (Video Chat or Skype) to Jane the specialist. Because of both cameras she is able to involve Jane in the Operation and therefore greatly minimize the risk .
In more simple operations the surgeon can simply query WebMD iphone app for a diagnosis based on the systems and get a possible diagnosis that would allow him/her to make critical decisions in real time.
MP for S N: What is this App App you keep yapping about. (HOUSE LAUGHTER)
Me: Sorry, an App is basically a tool that allows you to provide any real world solution on a mobile phone. Basically the App can diagnose and also collect data which is used by specialists like the Minister to make decisions.
Minister: Point of order Mr Speaker…
Speaker: Yes Minister proceed.
Minister: So John are you saying that if we distribute your phones like that one. We would be able to solve many of this problems that Kenyans are facing.
Me: All i am saying is that we need to think outside the box if we find ourselves boxed in by factors beyond our control.
(HOUSE STAMPING OF FEET)…
Investing in a framework for a network where our 4,000 surgeons and doctors using such sophisticated tools in the field will help save billions and more importantly lives.
With 1 billion shillings you can establish a Mobile Health Network that ensures that basic services reach people across the country.
I think that is all Mr Speaker Sir.
Speaker: Minister anything to say…
At this point the noisy buzz of the South African Vuvuzelas broke me from my reverie.
More on the Apple iPhone 4G Click Here.
John Karanja is the Founder of Whive.com a Social Media Platform for Africa. He is also a Reader at Oxford University, England.