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Mobile Healthcare for Africa

Microsoft Research has awarded grants to help Africa-based researchers conduct one-year studies on the potential of mobile technologies in the delivery of healthcare-related services on the African continent. Read about recipients of the Mobile Healthcare for Africa Awards.


Cellscope, a  camera-phone microscope Few technologies have seen such wide adoption in the developing world as the mobile phone, and few have shown themselves to be as adaptable to local cultural, social, and technological conditions. Economies of scale and the imperatives of the market place continue to decrease cost and increase capability of devices available worldwide.

According to International Telecommunication Union (ITU) data, in 2007, there were more than 45 mobile phone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in Africa, while at the same time, there were 16 fixed telephone lines per 100 inhabitants1. The mobile phone provides a significant opportunity to reach people who until now have not had access to technology solutions. A recent IDC study2 discovered that even when wireless technology is available, healthcare professionals preferentially use mobile phones on the job.

Smartphone prototype deviceWe propose to demonstrate the potential of mobile phones to enable the delivery of healthcare-related services on the African continent. We invite Africa-based researchers to apply for grants of cash to conduct one-year studies. Successful proposals will use Microsoft technologies and may also employ the capability of a mobile phone to interface with other devices, such as specialist medical hardware. A fieldwork component is strongly encouraged and the potential to increase the scale of the project (to, for example, serve large populations, address multiple diseases, or service various regions) is essential.

Successful projects will run for about one year, and will be expected to provide an interim status report after six months. After a year, a representative for each project will be invited to attend a meeting at Microsoft Research in Cambridge where they can present their work to an audience including Microsoft researchers working in the area of mobile computing.

A maximum of five awards will be granted, of up to US$25,000 each, including airfare and travel costs for attendance at the final reporting event.

While none of the one-year grants is renewable, the capstone event in Cambridge will be designed to encourage interaction between Microsoft researchers and the project principal investigator.

Goals and Objectives

Researchers are working on new smartphone-based ultrasound probesThere are multiple technological challenges in taking full advantage of mobile phones as a platform for healthcare. With this request for proposals (RFP), Microsoft Research supports multidisciplinary academic research in Africa that demonstrates the potential to improve the delivery of healthcare by using mobile technologies. The goal of the academic research projects must be to advance the state-of-the-art of technologies relevant to challenges in delivering healthcare in rural or at-risk African communities.

Projects must address some of the following research areas:

  • Education – Mobile technologies as delivery tools for health education and training targeted towards healthcare providers and/or patients.
  • Remote data collection and surveillance – The potential of mobile technologies to transform the way in which clinical, epidemiological, and surveillance research is conducted. This includes, but is not limited to, the ability to capture data in rural areas, the analysis disease transmission depending on environmental characteristics, and the development of early detection systems to mitigate disease outbreak.
  • Point of care diagnostics and remote patient monitoring – Low-cost mobile technologies can be used to reach underserved populations remotely or at the “point of care”. These could enable delivery of timely and appropriate treatment to patients, help control the emergence of drug resistant pathogens, enable monitoring of individual patients, and so forth.

1International Telecommunication Union

2Silvia Piai, Massimiliano Claps, Western Europe, Healthcare Sector, Infrastructure Technology Adoption and Investment Plans: An IDC Survey, IDC Study #MS13N, Nov 2006.

Contact Us

If you have any questions related to this RFP, please send an e-mail message to