Ehealth Africa advocates AI adoption to bridge healthcare delivery gap

lack of electricity was one of the major constraints in improving digital health in Nigeria, resulting in high maternal mortality rate especially in the rural areas.

Mr Atef Fawaz, the Executive Director, Ehealth Africa

A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Ehealth Africa, has advocated leveraging on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to bridge the healthcare delivery gap in Nigeria.

Mr Atef Fawaz, the Executive Director, Ehealth Africa, made the recommendation in Abuja during a panel session at the 2023 Insight Learning Forum on Wednesday.
The forum had the theme, “Digital Innovations in Public Health Practice: Lessons and Impact.”

AI is the use of computer or robot controlled by a computer to do tasks that are usually done by humans because they require human intelligence and discernment.

According to Fawaz, exploring AI will present Nigeria with a wealth of opportunities in healthcare.
These opportunities, he said, ranged from common medical processes like diagnosing diseases to identifying treatments, among others.
“AI can be used in a lot of ways in healthcare services for optimisation, deliveries to demand and supply problems, even doctors can use AI to shorten the time for a lot of things they do.
“Using AI rightly can bridge the healthcare gap and that is what we are trying to do, to shorten the procedures and at the same time increase optimisation in vaccine delivery and other works we do.”
Fawaz noted that AI needed to be fed with correct information and data to ensure adequate utilisation in getting accurate results for effective healthcare delivery.
“As artificial intelligence becomes more widely adopted, so too does the number of ways the technology is being used across industries.
“Researchers don’t expect AI to replace healthcare professionals just yet.
“Instead, they see it as supporting and improving the work of healthcare providers and professionals in the near future,” he said.
The NGO director noted that, however, lack of electricity was one of the major constraints in improving digital health in Nigeria, resulting in high maternal mortality rate especially in the rural areas.
According to him, accurate information, adoption of digital solutions and use of renewable energy is required to ensure that Africa gets it right and compete favourably with their counterparts globally.

BRANDPOWER reports that Fawaz’s position is in line with the advocacy of Prof Umar Dandabatta, the Executive Vice-Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) who only recently said: “AI-powered solutions have the potential to address some of Africa’s most pressing challenges, such as limited access to healthcare, food insecurity, financial inclusion, and infrastructure development.”

Danbatta said however that for Africa to fully embrace the benefits of AI, several critical factors must be addressed.

He said: “First, we must invest in building the necessary digital infrastructure. This includes expanding broadband connectivity.

“In Nigeria, as of July 2023, the broadband penetration stood at 47.01 per cent.

“Also, the continent must commit to ensuring reliable power supply and fostering a conducive regulatory environment.”

According to the EVC, without robust infrastructure, the potential of AI will remain untapped, and the digital divide will further widen.


Meanwhile, Fawaz expressed regret that some stakeholders who are willing to explore the use of renewable energy are restrained due to limited resources, as clean energy sources are not cheap.
“I think some state governments in Nigeria are thinking about the use of renewable energy and their limitations are resources, because renewable energies are not cheap.
“This is because they need upfront investments to buy the batteries, installation and training, then do some upgrade of equipment because there is need to have efficient equipment,” he said.
Fawaz said that, however, with the appointment of Prof. Ali Pate as the Minister of Health, there was hope for Nigeria’s health sector.
“We  are very optimistic about his vision and goals for the future. We are ready to work with him and also with state governments,” he said.