Health professionals in public hospitals and clinics around Bostwana will soon have access to free internet and specialised services thanks to a TV white spaces pilot project that was recently launched in the Southern African country.

Project Kgolagano (which means ‘to be connected or networked) was launched by the Botswana Innovation Hub in partnership with Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative, the Botswana-UPenn Partnership (BUP), Global Broadband Solutions, Vista Life Sciences, BoFiNet, Adaptrum and USAID-NetHope.

The Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA), the Botswana Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology have also given the project their support and go-ahead.

Project Kgolagano’s focus is specifically on providing access to specialised maternal medicine for women in rural and remote areas, thereby improving not only their livelihoods, but that of their babies as well.

The TV white spaces will allow health workers to interact with and send high-resolution patient photographs to the capital city of Gaborone and Philadelphia in the US to have it analysed and accurately diagnosed by labs and professionals with better facilities.

All activities will be performed using telemedicine apps (which allow patients and doctors to communicate via video chat), smart phones and tablets, and cloud-based services provided by Microsoft.

The official unveiling of the pilot’s first phase took place last week at the Tsopeng clinic in Lobatse. Athlone Hospital in Lobatse, Nyangabwe Hospital in Francistown, and Letsholathebe II Memorial Hospital in Maun also form part of the first phase, while the Tsopeng Clinic in Lobatse, Donga Clinic in Francistown and Moeti, Boseja, Maun Genral and Sedie Clinics in Maun will be added later on as the project develops.

“TV white spaces is a cutting edge technology that has the potential to enable network operators to provide cheaper broadband internet connectivity to billions of people around the world,” Paul Garnett, director of Microsoft’s Technology Policy Group said in a statement. “The technology is ideal as it can significantly improve the economics of deploying wireless broadband in underserved communities and can operate off-grid by leveraging solar power.”

[Image – CC Sarah Reid]