Open medical data to make Africa ‘new breeding ground for digital health’
By Oladimeji Ewumi  |  Jul 01, 2022
Open medical data to make Africa ‘new breeding ground for digital health’
Image courtesy of and under license from Shutterstock.com
This is The Yuan’s first global debate to mark the 110th birthday of Alan Turing, the pioneering father of AI. In light of Africa’s health tech expansion, biochemist Oladimeji Ewumi shares his insights and expertise on the benefits and drawbacks of open medical datasets in Africa’s digital health terrain.

LAGOS, NIGERIA - Africa's digital health technology space is thriving and growing rapidly, with increased access to mobile connectivity among its residents. This opportunity has opened it up to new private players, to the point where top medical publications have dubbed Africa "the new breeding ground for digital health."1

The year 2020 saw a rapid and unusual 22 percent surge in innovation, the highest recorded year of growth in the history of African healthtech startups,raising USD392 million in funding.The two largest economies and tech hubs in Africa, Nigeria and South Africa, together account for 46 percent of the continent’s 1,276 digital health startups, followed by Kenya and Egypt. 

Presently, 41 out of 54 countries in Africa have a digital health strategy. However, of the 75 percent of African countries that have a digital health plan, only South Africa and Kenya have accessible healthcare data.4 

If founders and tech innovators must leverage every digital health opportunity for Africa and its populace, they must utilize sufficient health data at every point of care. However, Africa's health tech expansion has been uneven, and the pandemic has exposed existing parts of the health divide. While African countries generate a great deal of health data, such data are often closed, limited, and under-utilized. Africa needs to create better open data frameworks and leverage multiple health data channels from various healthcare sources, including healthcare apps, health surveys, patient registries, electronic health records, administrative records, and clinical trials.

Data can potentially transform healthcare for the better by giving people the control to engage in the decisions that affect their lives. However, for data to reach their full potential, they must be available to and be used by all. All data should be available, preferab

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