Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Enhanced health services through Project Kgolagano; the ultimate public private partnership

Project Kgolagano is a practical and real example of innovation translated into a useful and impactful experience. The project has potential to relay valuable lessons on how public-private partnerships (PPPs) in Botswana can overcome their challenges and limitations. 

PPPs are generally deemed complex with regard to their contractual agreements as they often involve different partners who operate under a specific and unique set of conditions. Project Kgolagano entailed the collective participation of Microsoft through its 4Afrika initiative, the Botswana-UPenn Partnership (BUP), Global Broadband Solutions, Vista Life Sciences, Botswana Fibre Networks (BoFiNet), Adaptrum and USAID-NetHope. All these players set in motion a ground breaking TV white spaces (TVWS) initiative which will provide access to internet connectivity and telemedicine services to local hospitals and clinics. TV white spaces is an emerging communications technology that enables delivery of broadband using dynamic spectrum access. Unused spectrum on the frequency rangeÔÇôcommonly used to deliver television channelsÔÇôis used and known as TV white space or TVWS. The empty space on the frequency range is therefore put to use in the form of internet connectivity. Similar pilots have been launched in Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania and Ghana. 

Explaining the impact behind this pilot project in an interview with Sunday Standard, Sub Saharan and Indian Ocean Islands Director in the Microsoft Windows Business Division, Rotimi Olumide said: “The TV white space will offer internet connectivity in certain rural regions of Botswana where it wouldn’t otherwise have been available. That connectivity is then an enabler for doctors and medical practitioners to communicate with medical personnel in America so as to get advice on how to treat patients locally.” 

He stressed that such a project requires partnership, interest and involvement of many different organizations to achieve its intended purpose. This low cost and high impact project, which Olumide anticipates will extend over the pilot phase, will connect geographically disadvantaged communities in Lobatse (Athlone Hospital), Francistown (Nyangabwe) and Maun (Letsholathebe II Memorial)  to gain access to specialized healthcare, thereby significantly improving the conditions and quality of health services offered in those areas. Tsopeng Clinic in Lobatse, Donga Clinic in Francistown and Moeti Clinic, Boseja Clinic, Maun Clinic, Sedie Clinic and Maun General Clinic will also be connected during the later phase of the project. Telemedicine experts and doctors will be provided by BUP through which medical expertise will be offered.  

The involvement of Microsoft in the project is to be expected given that it is a renowned multinational technology company with vested and direct interest in internet connectivity. This is because the use of its applications depends on the availability of connectivity. Today’s world and its challenges demand enablement of innovative devices to provide better and improved services to disadvantaged communities. BOCRA’s involvement provides authorization and oversight with regard to the use of the TV white space.    The involvement of different partners is encouragement and testament that government is acting on its PPP policy which falls under privatization. This will ensure that government does not solely bear the costs of providing quality healthcare to regions that are presently underserved. It also means that government can direct financial resources to other equally impactful projects. Education is also another sector that a partnership with Microsoft exists. The public-private agreement will ensure that learning is transformed, employability is improved, and innovation is adopted through the training that will be offered to Ministry of Education trainers on using Microsoft technologies which will later be applied in classroom learning and teaching.  

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