In an effort to make engineering relevant to the society, the Electrical Engineering department at the Malawi Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi has been running the Wireless Network for Health Applications project since mid 2006. This work is being done with collaboration from the Radio Communications Unit, Aeronomy and Radio Propagation Laboratory, Abdus Salam ICTP, Trieste, Italy.

The goal of this project is to improve the delivery of health services by improving access to information and timely communication through low cost wireless-based communication network and basic telemedicine applications in the city of Blantyre. Some of the specific objectives of the project include the following:

  1. To improve access to information and ease of communication for the delivery of health services through increased Internet connectivity bandwidth, low cost wireless-based network and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP);
  2. To use basic telemedicine applications for the delivery of health services, such as exchange of medical records, statistics, epidemic surveillance data, transmission of X-rays; and consultations with specialists through email; thus availing expert opinion at the which otherwise is available only at referral hospitals
  3. To increase knowledge and skills of staff at Ndirande and Limbe health centres in City of Blantyre on how to use ICT facilities for the delivery of health services.
  4. To develop an appropriate model for wireless-based communication network for health applications to be replicated in other areas.

The project is comprised of two phases: network implementation and installation of telemedicine applications. The first phase involved the development of a wireless network connecting Ndirande and Limbe Health Centres to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), the biggest hospital in the City of Blantyre, through the Polytechnic. As of now, it is possible to access the Internet from the two health centres through the Polytechnic as a gateway. The Blantyre Malaria Project (BMP) housed within the premises of Ndirande Health Centre can upload research data to their server in USA. It is also possible to make VoIP phone calls between the two health centres and QECH.

Now that I am back to the land of the lake, I am pleased to let you know that I am part of this project. As the project goes into the second phase, there is a need for collaboration with organizations or institutions which specialize in telemedicine applications. As we mind more about the communication aspects of the project, you can help us with the telemedicine aspects of the same. If you are either part of or you know such organizations or institutions, please get in touch with me through nyirendac at gmail.com.