AWS provides $14M in cloud services to help advance equal access to health care globally

In its first year, the AWS Health Equity Initiative distributed $14 million in cloud credits and technical expertise to support health equity innovations globally.

The global need for health equity is receiving increased attention as new evidence reinforces the stark contrast in health outcomes from countries with varying levels of resources. 

Findings from the World Health Organization’s research on Social Determinants of Health noted a 19-year difference in life expectancy between developed countries and resource-constrained ones. The reasons for life expectancy differences are complex, transcending genetics, socioeconomic status, education, environmental conditions, and many other factors—and that’s why health equity is not something that any one government or organization can tackle alone. 

Amazon Web Services (AWS) says is committed to helping, and we see potential for cloud computing technologies to make a substantial impact in this area. In 2021, the company launched the AWS Health Equity Initiative, a three-year, $40 million commitment to support organizations globally that are inventing and scaling new ways to promote equal access to health care and address social determinants of health. In the initiative’s first year, AWS awarded $14 million in cloud credits—credits for AWS’s cloud services—and technical expertise to help nearly 90 organizations around the world—ranging from startups to nonprofits and large enterprises—to address this challenge.

“Closing the health equity gap will require new, better approaches to providing care—and our customers are doing just that. We’re seeing organizations build innovative solutions tapping into the power of the cloud to deliver better health outcomes across the world,” says Max Peterson, vice president of worldwide public sector at AWS. 

“Innovations range from a mobile technology-based taxi service for women in labor needing emergency care in Tanzania and Lesotho to genomic sequencing technology that is making it easier to address COVID-19 and other diseases in Africa. The creativity of our customers, paired with AWS technology, has unlimited potential to substantially increase health equity, and we’re excited to see how much we can accomplish together.” Max says 

Promoting equity through better diagnostics

AWS is now expanding the Health Equity Initiative to include a new focus area—diagnostics. Despite their critical role in treatment, diagnostics are consistently overlooked and underfunded, particularly in addressing primary health care concerns, including diabetes and hypertension. Noncommunicable medical conditions account for 70% of deaths globally, with a disproportionate amount of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

Over the past two years, spurred by the pandemic, AWS has supported organizations using the cloud to power new diagnostic technologies to tackle COVID-19. Looking beyond the pandemic, sustained diagnostic innovation is needed across a wide range of diseases, and the new diagnostics focus area is designed to address that. 

Hyrax Biosciences is an excellent example of a company using the cloud to bring diagnostic treatments to low- and middle-income countries. The South Africa-based bioinformatics software company is enabling the analysis of the COVID-19 genome to better understand and track progress of the virus in Africa. This allows national and international health authorities to monitor infections, quickly identify and understand new variants, and take rapid action. Now with support from the Health Equity Initiative, Hyrax is scaling their genomic sequencing technology to address other diseases, including HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria—diseases that disproportionately affect individuals in developing countries.

“Next-generation sequencing data is both large scale and computation heavy. AWS allows us to process large amounts of raw genomic data in hours, not days or weeks. The faster we can identify the COVID-19 variants spreading in Africa, the more quickly we can understand the diversity of the disease across the continent and provide the right care to as many people as possible,” said Dr. Simon Travers, CEO of Hyrax Biosciences.

The new diagnostics pillar will be the Health Equity Initiative’s fourth area of focus. The other three focus areas are increasing access to health services, addressing social determinants of health, and using data to promote equitable and inclusive systems of care.

Democratizing access to care

Beyond diagnostics, we’ve also seen big steps forward in tackling inequalities in treatment and care. For example, Seattle-based startup Hurone AI is democratizing access to high-quality cancer prevention and care. The company is building artificial intelligence (AI)-powered applications derived from data sources and algorithms from people of African descent to bridge the gaps of cancer care outcomes.

In Africa, oncologists are scarce. Estimates suggest that 10–20 oncologists in Rwanda serve a population of nearly 13 million. Hurone AI’s Gukiza app enables oncologists to provide remote patient monitoring and teleoncology throughout the country. Powered by AWS, the Gukiza app allows oncologists to communicate with patients using digital devices and text messages, increasing the ability to provide care to more patients in more places.

“AWS is helping us safely and securely expand access to cancer care in Rwanda. Using the cloud, we are able to scale the Gukiza app, address the African cancer data gap, and better support patients throughout their cancer treatment journey. By increasing treatment compliance and completion through Gukiza, we reduce costs from side effects-related hospitalizations and increase survival rates,” said Dr. Kingsley Ndoh, founder and chief strategist at Hurone AI.

Difficulties with accessing health services extend to primary medical care, as well. Emergency response personnel are frequently asked to provide support for nonurgent cases when a patient lacks transport or easy access to primary care. Arizona-based eVisit is helping emergency personnel offer telehealth services, giving underserved populations access to the care they need without requiring an emergency visit to the hospital. 

Access to the eVisit Virtual Care platform is available with a few taps on tablets carried by emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to facilitate live, on-site, telehealth visits between patients who call 911 and emergency medicine physicians. 

“The cost and the ability to get to a point-of-care facility can be real challenges for vulnerable and underserved groups, and telehealth can play a critical role in bridging that gap. Our Virtual Care platform is designed to make it easy for emergency personnel to get patients the help they need and avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital,” explains Juli Stover, chief strategy officer at eVisit. “Running our solution on AWS and the support from the Health Equity Initiative program have allowed us to scale, helping us to get more people the help they need, when they need it.”

It’s still day one

Great work is underway, but more work must be done to close the health equity gap. AWS says it will continue to support customers using the power of the cloud to tackle this important global challenge.

aws.amazon.com

Monogoto partners with Workz for eSIM cloud as it gears up for IoT growth

Monogoto, the global connectivity provider, has partnered with global eSIM provider, Workz, to establish a cloud platform to manage both consumer and M2M eSIM devices for its client base across 180 countries. The agreement comes as part of the company’s continued growth strategy.

Embedded SIM (eSIM) technology, a key driver for the Internet of Things (IoT), is expected to be used in six billion devices such as smartphones, consumer electronics, health monitoring, transport, and smart energy by 2025. Monogoto uses eSIM technology to provide connectivity services for devices such as point of sales, ATMs, wearables, smart lights, fleets of cars and packages. The partnership between the two companies will allow Monogoto’s customers flexibility in changing network profiles and installing SIMs in QR code supported devices.

According to the GSMA, eSIM services have grown 500% in the last three years with more than 230 network providers in 80 countries catering for the next-generation SIM technology. Last year, Workz became the first provider to launch a cloud-based eSIM management platform for networks which is certified by the GSMA, and this May was identified as one of the top five eSIM platform providers in the world for the second year running despite a two-fold increase in market competition.

Itamar Kunik, Monogoto CEO said, “We are proud to partner with Workz and offer our customers a new platform for eSIM.  Moving over to Workz’s eSIM cloud was easier and a lot quicker than expected. The move gives Monogoto the agility to address the evolving connectivity needs of our customers and partners as they arise”.

Tor Malmros, CEO of Workz said, “eSIM adoption is rising rapidly as the opportunity for operators across consumer and M2M verticals expands – developments such as the first eSIM-only iPhone launched this month will only heighten this. Our cloud-based solution is designed to enable innovative connectivity providers like Monogoto to scale up quickly in this new market allowing them to move fast, grow, and achieve a tangible return on investment.”

www.workz.com

Liquid Cloud brings Amazon Web Service Direct Connect to business customers across Africa

Liquid Cloud has announced that it has been approved by Amazon Web Service (AWS) as a Direct Connect Delivery Partner.

This prestigious certification secured by Liquid Cloud, a business of Cassava Technologies, ensures that it is one of only four partners in Africa to secure this achievement after undergoing an extensive and rigorous technical and business review by AWS.

Available to customers in all countries with Liquid operations, existing and potential AWS customers can access their Direct Connect services straight. Additionally, through this partnership, they can now reduce admin overheads by managing the end-to-end process and non-differentiated tasks on behalf of customers.

“Liquid has over 100,000kms of fibre coverage across the continent, and we leverage our fibre infrastructure to enable customers to connect directly to the AWS cloud without a middleman. This relationship with AWS marks a vital step in our strategy to support our enterprise customers’ needs in many of our African markets,” said Winston Ritson, Chief Operating Officer, Liquid Cloud and Cyber Security.

This partnership will bring significant benefits to Liquid Cloud’s multinational and large enterprise customers as, through AWS Direct Connect, customers can connect to the AWS cloud bypassing the public internet via a dedicated connection.  In addition to Liquid Cloud customers having access to a range of services which already include Microsoft and Oracle, they will also experience a more consistent, reliable, and stable performance.

“With Liquid Cloud, our customers are getting access to international-standard offering via a service provider that has extensive expertise in bringing seamless cloud services to African businesses of all sizes,” says Ritson.

Liquid Cloud is committed to working with businesses and assisting them in every step of their digital transformation. “We are continually investing in ensuring local businesses have access to the highest standards of tech that provides a seamless experience for their customers and can compete with businesses in other developed economies. Africa is ripe for international investments, and cloud technologies are a critical element for assured success,” he says.

Customers can reach out to Liquid for their Direct Connect needs through their AWS Partner Solution Finder profile.

[Kenya] Strathmore University embraces remote learning shift using AWS Cloud

Kenya’s Strathmore University has partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) in a bid to make its high-quality education and resources accessible from anywhere in the world.

Stephen Momanyi, Director of ICT Services at Strathmore University says, “In the last year, online education has become a major focus for us. Like everyone else, our digital transformation journey has been accelerated by the pandemic. Although we began our conversation with Amazon Web Services in 2019, it was only in the last two years that we truly saw the need to expedite this process.  We needed to scale and scale fast, but we had to be careful not to disrupt the education process in this migration.”

Speaking of the benefits the institution has so far seen, Momanyi says, “with the help of the right cloud solution, education has become truly borderless. Strathmore University has already noticed an increase in students studying from abroad. We have been ready for this evolution for quite some time, it just took the right cloud partner to guide us on this journey.”

With a campus of 8000 students and 1500 staff who now require a 24/7 education experience, Strathmore University needed an IT infrastructure that was flexible and scalable. The on-premise hardware running the learning engine was ageing and not able to keep up with the demand, and system uptime became a real concern.

According to Momanyi, “scaling the IT infrastructure supporting our LMS system as and when necessary wasn’t an economically viable option with an on-premise set up, but now the cloud is truly making this possible. Operating in a cloud environment now means that the university no longer has to worry about maintaining hardware and can scale with ease in an instant.”

Mr. Robin Njiru, Regional Lead, West, East & Central Africa, Amazon Web Services added, “The pandemic dramatically set back learning more so in Sub-Saharan Africa, where technology uptake in learning institutions has been slow. Once the pandemic hit and learning was disrupted, we saw conversations with educators move from discussing the possibilities of technologies in education to how technology could be harnessed immediately to reverse the adverse effects. Strathmore University was the first education institution in Kenya to adopt and deploy workloads on the AWS cloud. We are very happy to see that our services have not only enabled them to transition to online learning but also scale their services beyond the Kenyan borders. We invite more learning institutions, be it primary, secondary, or higher education institutions to collaborate with AWS and experience flexible, affordable technology solutions.”

The onset of cloud technology has transformed the capabilities of every industry. After the world was significantly disrupted by an unforeseen pandemic, this transformation was keenly felt in education, where long-term disruption could have had a negative impact on an entire generation of students. Cloud has transformed teaching and learning as we know it, fast-tracking education right from school through to universities and beyond.

“We couldn’t have done it without the help and support of the AWS team who understand the nuances of this process in a way that we never could. They have been an invaluable partner as we venture into uncharted territory. Considering this is the future of education, we hope all our colleagues in the sector forge a similar relationship as they evolve their offerings,” says Momanyi.

strathmore.edu

[Column] Dumisani Moyo: How to use the cloud to supercharge your SME’s growth

As global economic growth slows down and many developed and emerging economies face severe pressure, the SME sector is again taking centre stage as a catalyst for job creation and growth throughout the African continent.

Small and medium enterprises are the future of Africa’s economic development. SMEs can create more jobs more quickly than their larger counterparts, can stimulate innovation, and make a significant impact on their local and regional economies. And when supported by a strong digital strategy enabled by the cloud, there is virtually no limit to SMEs’ growth and innovation potential.”

The World Bank estimates that SMEs employ more than 50% of the workforce and contributes up to 40% of GDP in emerging economies. However, SMEs typically lack the financial and human resources of their enterprise counterparts, leaving them potentially more vulnerable to changing market conditions and other disruptive events, such as the pandemic.

Cloud and other technologies enable greater innovation, which is essential to the success and even survival of SMEs. Between 1955 and 2011, it took Fortune500 companies an average of 20 years to reach a billion-dollar valuation. Today’s digitally transformed startups can reach milestone that in a mere four years.”

He adds that since 2000, more than half of companies on the Fortune500 have gone out of business, with a lack of agility cited as a key reason. 

Companies that have developed their business models and processes with technology as an enabler typically enjoy greater efficiency, improved innovation capabilities, and can more easily adapt to new challenges or opportunities in their operating environment. This improves their chances at building successful, sustainable business models that can support the business strategy in the long term while still delivering to revenue targets in the short term.”

Why SMEs take to the cloud

African SMEs seek out cloud solutions to boost revenue growth, become more efficient, open up new markets, and adapt to changes in their working environment, for example, adopting cloud-based collaboration tools to enable remote working during the pandemic.

Every SME can benefit from leveraging cloud solutions to enable their digital transformation. Companies that use the cloud effectively enjoy greater flexibility and agility, and can more readily build competitive and sustainable business models that meet changing customer demands and employee expectations.

He cites the example of SMEs leveraging templates during their digital transformation efforts to reduce complexity and lower costs while still unlocking a broad range of benefits. 

One of the major advantages of working with a global cloud provider with experience across multiple industries is that SMEs gain access to best-practice templates that have been proven effective in similar industries or markets. This can significantly cut down the time to value for new technology deployments and help ensure companies enjoy the full range of benefits of their new tech.

Tips for SME cloud adoption

SMEs have several distinct advantages over larger companies when embarking on cloud adoption or digital transformation initiatives. SMEs are by nature smaller, more nimble and can therefore move quicker and adapt more easily. However, the road to cloud adoption is not always clear, and SME leaders need to be aware of key factors that may influence the outcomes of their cloud efforts.

Based on SAP’s experience with supporting SMEs across the globe with their cloud, technology and digital transformation needs, Moyo provides the following tips to SMEs:

Identify and prioritise high-value areas for cloud

One of the most important aspects of any cloud adoption strategy is to first identify where cloud can provide the most value to the business. If your biggest challenge is managing your hybrid workforce, then choosing cloud solutions that can track and enable better productivity can deliver the highest returns in the short term.”

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to realising the value of any cloud deployment is a lack of adoption within the organisation. 

Any investment into new cloud capabilities need to be supported with a strong change management program that is driven by top leadership throughout the organisation. When employees see the value of the new capabilities and can follow the example of senior role models – especially company leadership – they are more likely to use the tools themselves. This ensures the deployment realises optimum business value and has a transformative effect on how the business operates.

Empower your teams

One of the biggest disruptors to SMEs’ business models is the pandemic, which has upended many traditional notions of work and employment. 

Today, more employees work remotely some or most of the time than ever before,” says Moyo. “This has forced companies to reengineer their employee engagement and talent retention models to suit this new world of work.

Powerful cloud tools for tracking employee sentiment, for example, can empower companies with greater insight into employee expectations and help keep the pulse of their workforce. “With so many employees working remotely, it has never been more important to use technology to support employees and help ensure the smooth running of the business.

Find and develop critical skills

Africa’s youth dividend is widely published, but the continent still struggles at times to nurture and develop sufficient tech talent to power its digital economy. 

SMEs work with other partners in the public and private sector to improve digital skills development outcomes and help ensure they have access to the requisite talent pool.

Initiatives such as SAP’s Young Professionals Program give talented graduates a streamlined entry into working in SAP-enabled tech environments, and ensures our partners have access to the skills they need.”

Africa’s young population offers enormous potential for economic growth and innovation, but they need to be supported with suitable skills development and work opportunities. “With the correct investment into skills, African SMEs can help mobilise the largest youth population on Earth to drive and support the continent’s growth ambitions for decades to come.”