Local generation and use of innovation will accelerate better health outcomes, reduce inequities, and have huge scope for prevention and care by harnessing the rapid growth in information and mobile technology in the African continent.
Capitalising on innovation is key to the future of health in sub-Saharan Africa and can support leapfrogging health improvements, by adopting more advanced technologies rather than following slow, classic paths. Innovative, low-cost vaccines, diagnostics, therapies, and information technology applications have huge scope for prevention and care. Innovations in health professional education, health service delivery, and governance are also urgently needed, particularly those using information and communication technologies.
Information and communications technologies and social media have been and will continue to be important enablers of Africa's transformation. African countries are experiencing an unprecedented increase in mobile phone subscriptions, internet connections, and mobile phone financial transactions, and a decline in the price of devices and services. There are an estimated three mobile phones for every four people in sub-Saharan Africa, with variations across regions (figure 8). Mobile phone-based money transfer services such as M-pesa (launched in Kenya in 2007) and others are revolutionising business and power relations. Information and communications technologies can transform the work environment, introducing flexibilities that encourage positive lifestyles. Mobile phones and wearable devices can help people exercise and make other healthy behaviour choices, and thus affect the burden of chronic conditions. But information and communications technologies can also lead to sedentary behaviour in young children, adolescents, and adults, and thus precipitate exactly the opposite outcome.