Exclusive Interview in East Africa
Recently in September 2018, BYON8 made a significant step forward in our East African project during a landmark visit to Uganda. Delve into our story in this exclusive interview feature with an amazing woman passionate about global health and development, Jonna Bertfelt! Don’t forget to also check out our ‘News’ tab to discover the latest media spotlights on BYON8.
From left to right: Jonna Bertfelt, Josef Murad, Barak Bruered, Stephen Lawoko
1) Hej Jonna! Can you give us a brief introduction about yourself and what you do in Byon8?
Jonna: Hej! I am a Project Manager for the East African project, which means that I am doing everything from business development to implementing our products in the region. It involves travelling and visiting potential partners and customers there. My background is in public health and I’ve been with Byon8 for about 8 months. I found this a really interesting field to work in. I’ve been living and working in East Africa for most of my professional life. A lot of my work has been on research and impact evaluation – to learn how can different interventions improve health in the region? I am now witnessing how electronic and digital tools are starting to come in, and I see a real potential as to how they can improve. And that’s why I got excited about Byon8 and AITOPYA! I can really see how we can have an impact in implementing our software in these healthcare systems.
2) What is the healthcare situation like in East Africa?
Jonna: It is important to know that Uganda in East Africa has a completely different healthcare setting than Sweden (where BYON8 originates from). In Sweden for example, we have 1 doctor for 800 patients; contrast this to Uganda where we have 1 doctor for about 12,000 patients! That means that coming in with tools like AITOPYA can be efficient and also improves the quality of care. It has a potential of giving a really good impact.
3) What is the East African project about?
Jonna: This particular project is a collaboration with OneWorld Health, an American non-profit organization that is running a primary healthcare clinic in Masindi (an area in the middle of Uganda) and a Ugandan university called Victoria University. We know that OneWorld Health is a very well run organization and will implement AITOPYA well; we believe that we will be able to see positive effects in a short amount of time. We need to be aware of the fact that the context is different from Sweden - this is the first pilot in Uganda. The project will evaluate the efficiency of AITOPYA in the Ugandan clinics and we will work hard to ensure that AITOPYA has a good impact on operations there. Importantly, the project will include follow-up, an assessment on how AITOPYA is being implemented in the East African context and areas of improvement on features in the software.
4) How and why did the East African project start?
Jonna: We see a HUGE potential for these kinds of platforms - AITOPYA is a tool that can help to support diagnosis. More than that, generally in the past couple of years, I also think that these digital tools are helping us to leapfrog in development. About 10 years ago, fin-tech (finance technology) came into East Africa and became huge - being able to easily send money back from town to your relatives in the village has improved both health and school attendance, as people could start paying their school fees. This is an example of how digital automations can help in the region. The healthcare system is a little slower to adapting to new things – as it is being heavily regulated in most cases – but we do see that potential. Which is one of the reasons Josef started Byon8 - we truly see that there is work for us to do there.
Another good reason to be working in East Africa is that AITOPYA is well suited to be used in such primary healthcare settings. As a common disease pattern in East Africa is communicable diseases, they can be easily treated as long as people get access to healthcare services.
5) You went to Uganda with Josef in September 2018. What progress was made in Uganda?
Jonna: After months of online emails and meetings with OneWorld Health and Victoria University, we felt that we were ready to sign a written agreement – a Memorandum of Understanding - on this collaboration that is going to be ongoing for a year. For a couple of months in 2018, we are going to work on developing ways of implementing AITOPYA. In January 2019, we will install AITOPYA and run AITOPYA for 6 months while we continuously evaluate how the software is improving their daily operations, their quality of care, the patient satisfaction and the work environment for the healthcare professionals. It was a good trip and we got some media coverage on this. The locals and the media are really excited about it! A lot of people see the potential that these digital tools can bring.
6) Are there other potential partnerships Byon8 can have in Uganda?
Jonna: Yes, we are talking to quite a few people. In bringing AITOPYA to Uganda we want to make sure that we can access all parts of the market. From people that have less capability to pay for their care, all the way to well-functioning hospitals in Kampala. We are now talking to 3 or 4 more mid-range clinics and hospitals that we will like to test and implement AITOPYA in. It’s a process – its business development – it will probably take a while to get leads, but conversations are definitely going on.
7) Can you give an interesting example of a next step forward for the East African project?
Jonna: We are developing a training manual for how AITOPYA is going to be implemented. We need to make sure that the written documentation is fit for the context. Even though they use English in the Ugandan healthcare system, it is their own version of English – they call it “Uglish”. For example: “How has been your day? You been lost!” versus the standard way of saying “How are you? I haven’t seen you in a while!” As I am writing the training materials, I do take that fact into consideration as I rather use phrases that they can understand better. The situation is that people in Uganda are not as digitally literate; for example, saying that “This is a platform running on A.I.” will mean nothing to them! We have to explain the term A.I.
This is actually another cool aspect about working in East Africa for me. Why I like working with digital tools in these settings is because I believe that as we are implementing more digital tools, we are also helping these people build capabilities that they will need in the future. They can make themselves more marketable for other jobs, and so on and so forth. There is no way that you can continue being digital illiterate. After we have written up these implementation materials, then it is time for the implementation in January 2019!