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.

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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.

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Amazon to launch a new AWS Local Zone cloud infrastructure in Kenya

Amazon Web Services has announced plans to launch an AWS Local Zone in Kenya.  AWS, an Amazon.com, Inc. company made this announcement at the ongoing Connected Summit 2022 in Diani, Kwale County.

The new AWS Local Zone(s) in Kenya will join 16 existing AWS Local Zones across the United States and an additional 32 AWS Local Zones planned to launch in 26 countries around the world starting in 2022. AWS Local Zones deliver single-digit millisecond latency performance at the edge of the cloud to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

“The new AWS Local Zone in Kenya is a continuation of our investment to support customers of all kinds and our commitment to accelerate innovation by bringing cloud infrastructure to more locations in the country. We know that delivering ultra-low latency applications for a seamless user experience matters in every business and industry, so we are excited to bring the edge of the cloud closer to more customers in Kenya to help meet their requirements. ” Robin Njiru, Regional Lead, East, West and Central Africa at AWS said.

Njiru says AWS Local Zones will empower more public and private organizations, innovative startups, and AWS partners to deliver a new generation of leading edge, low-latency applications to end users. 

Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs, Mr Joseph Mucheru said the announcement reaffirms our Kenya’s position as an attractive place to invest, powered by a high volume of local talented developers. ”It will boost the adoption of advanced cloud-based technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Internet of Things while helping to ensure secure use across the Kenyan technology sector.” he said.

AWS manages and supports Local Zones, meaning customers in Kenya do not need to incur the expense and effort of procuring, operating, and maintaining infrastructure in Nairobi to support low-latency applications. AWS Local Zones also allow customers with local data residency requirements in Kenya to run parts of their applications in on-premises data centers and seamlessly connect to AWS while ensuring ultra-low latency for these types of hybrid deployments—all while using familiar AWS APIs and tools.

The new AWS Local Zones will give customers in Kenya the ability to offer end users single-digit millisecond performance designed to suit applications such as remote real-time gaming, media and entertainment content creation, live video streaming, engineering simulations, augmented and virtual reality, machine learning inference at the edge, and more.

Customers can connect to AWS Local Zones through an internet connection or use AWS Direct Connect—a cloud service that links an organization’s network directly to AWS to deliver consistent, secure, low-latency performance—to route traffic over a private AWS network connection.

AWS Local Zones are a type of infrastructure deployment that places AWS compute, storage, database, and other services at the edge of the cloud near large population, industry, and information technology (IT) centers—enabling customers to deploy applications that require single-digit millisecond latency closer to end users or on-premises data centers. AWS Local Zones allow customers to use core AWS services locally while seamlessly connecting to the rest of their workloads running in AWS Regions with the same elasticity, pay-as-you-go model, application programming interfaces (APIs), and toolsets.

The announcement comes more than two years after Kenya’s leading telco Safaricom announced a partnership with Amazon to resell AWS services in Kenya and throughout East Africa.

On top of reselling AWS services, the telco also was also included as an Advanced Consulting Partner in the AWS Partner Network (APN), a partner program for technology and consulting businesses that leverage AWS “to build solutions and services for customers.

Peter Ndegwa, CEO of Safaricom PLC said the new AWS Local Zone will enable Safaricom to further enhance its cloud offerings, especially to its Enterprise and SME customers, and migrate more of its own services to the Cloud.  ”Customer obsession remains a key focus for Safaricom and with this local presence driven by our partnership with Amazon, we will now achieve increased speed, stability, reliability, and storage to support innovation and development of future-fit solutions,” Peter added.

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[Kenya] Zalego Academy Joins the Amazon Web Services Training Partner Program

Zalego Academy, a subsidiary of StepWise Inc. that focuses on ICT training and enhancing the employability of youth and people from underserved communities has joined the Amazon Web Service Training partner program. 

Zalego Academy will now work with AWS to deliver training and certification for cloud skills to learners in Kenya and will concentrate on social impact initiatives. This training will not only enable cloud fluency for unemployed youth and graduates to leverage the power of cloud but will also create a new pathway of economic opportunity for young people to partake in cloud computing jobs. 

This Training Partner Program is designed for organizations like Zalego Academy, that meet or exceed rigorous criteria for delivering and or offering high-quality technical training.  

“Organizations need individuals with cloud skills to help transform their business, and there is a growing demand for IT professionals with cloud skills. AWS Training and Certification, along with our Training Partners like Zalego Academy, aims to equip the builders of today and tomorrow with the knowledge they need to leverage the power of cloud. AWS Training, designed by experts, teaches in-demand cloud skills and best practices, helping learners prepare for AWS Certification exams so they can advance their careers and transform their organizations,” said Maureen Lonergan Vice President, AWS Training and Certification.

“We strongly believe that with the support of AWS, Zalego Academy can build innovative programs that have a lasting impact, particularly to the underserved and underrepresented in Africa,” said Chris Harrison, CEO StepWise.  “Delivering AWS Training and Certification is perfectly aligned with StepWise’s purpose of preparing an inclusive talent pipeline and creating sustainable employment for a technology-driven world.”

As a Training Partner, Zalego Academy plans to deliver authorized AWS Training and work with partner organizations to develop future-focused strategies, to enhance the employability of youth and people from underserved communities. It will also deliver trainings intentionally built for non-traditional learners of all abilities to engage in, (i.e., in-person, sign language interpreters, video captioning and wheelchair accessible space).

The training is developed and maintained by cloud experts, ensuring the content reflects current best practices. AWS Classroom Training gives learners the opportunity to engage live and get questions answered by an expert instructor. Many courses also include hands-on labs, allowing learners to practice real-world scenarios in a sandbox environment. Training also helps prepare learners for the cloud service provider’s certification exams, which validate technical skills and expertise with an industry-recognized credential.

“AWS Courses will not only enable the underserved communities in tech to acquire the skills needed to earn a living-wage job upon graduation, but will also enable them to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families,” said Peres Were-Ogaga, Executive Director, StepWise Foundation.

StepWise is focused particularly on enhancing economic inclusion in Africa through the creation of digital jobs for people from disadvantaged communities, women, the chronically unemployed, and individuals with disabilities. Through the Foundation’s Scholarship Program, Zalego Academy provides individuals with disabilities and underserved youth in East Africa, with career-ready technology skills through programs that are aligned with the current and future job market. These demands are driven by advancements in technology.