Botswana Innovation Hub collaborates with Microsoft, others to launch first telemedicine service over TV white spaces network

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The Botswana Innovation Hub, in collaboration with Microsoft, the Botswana-UPenn Partnership (BUP), Global Broadband Solutions, Vista Life Sciences, BoFiNet, Adaptrum and USAID-NetHope, has launched a new TV white spaces (TVWS) pilot project. The project, known as Project Kgolagano, will provide internet connectivity and telemedicine services to local hospitals and clinics, which will enable access to specialised medicine in Gaborone and other locations around the world.

TV white spaces is a technology that enables the delivery of broadband using dynamic spectrum access. Unused spectrum on the frequency range – commonly used to deliver television channels – is used and known as TV white space or TVWS. Microsoft through its 4Afrika initiative has launched similar pilots across Africa including Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania and Ghana.

“There is currently a lack of specialised care in remote hospitals and clinics in Botswana,” says Dr Geoffrey Seleka, Director of the Botswana Innovation Hub Marketing, ICT and Registration. “Through Project Kgolagano, we will be using TVWS technology to provide access to specialised telemedicine applications, where hospitals can send high-resolution patient photographs back to Gaborone and Philadelphia for a more accurate diagnosis and care.

Project Kgolagano, which means ‘to be connected or networked’, will have a specific focus on providing access to specialised maternal medicine, which will improve the livelihoods of women located in small towns and rural areas. Telemedicine experts and doctors providing medical expertise for referred patients are being provided by BUP.

The Project will be officially unveiled on Thursday, 12 March 2015, at Tsopeng clinic in Lobatse. It will initially run in three Phase One locations: Lobatse, Francistown and Maun, with additional locations being added in the coming months. The hospitals to be connected are: Athlone Hospital in Lobatse, Nyangabwe Hospital in Francistown, and Letsholathebe II Memorial Hospital in Maun. In addition, Tsopeng Clinic in Lobatse, Donga Clinic in Francistown and Moeti Clinic, Boseja Clinic, Maun Clinic, Sedie Clinic ad Maun General Clinic will also be connected.

“Microsoft is honoured to be working with the Government of Botswana to enable access to specialized maternal medicine in underserved communities by leveraging TV white spaces technology, telemedicine applications, smart devices, and cloud-based services” says Paul Garnett, Director of Microsoft’s Technology Policy Group.

Project Kgolagano is made possible under an authorisation from the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) to transmit using TV white spaces.  It is also operating with the support of the Botswana Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology.

 “TV white spaces is a cutting edge technology that has the potential to enable network operators to provide cheaper broadband internet connectivity to billions of people around the world,” adds Garnett. “The technology is ideal as it can significantly improve the economics of deploying wireless broadband in underserved communities and can operate off-grid by leveraging solar power.”