Original Research

The role of information and communication technologies in the delivery of health services in rural communities: Experiences from Malawi

Chimango Nyasulu, Winner D. Chawinga
SA Journal of Information Management | Vol 20, No 1 | a888 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajim.v20i1.888 | © 2018 Chimango Nyasulu, Winner D. Chawinga | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 June 2017 | Published: 18 September 2018

About the author(s)

Chimango Nyasulu, Department of Information and Communication Technology, Mzuzu University, Malawi
Winner D. Chawinga, Department of Library and Information Science, Mzuzu University, Malawi


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Abstract

Background: In recent years, Africa has experienced a boom in information and communication technologies (ICTs). These ICTs have been hailed by the health sector as impetus for heath service delivery in rural areas. In this regard, stakeholders in the health sector have made attempts to reinforce frontline health workers with technological tools. Although there is much evidence that ICTs play a key role in the health sector, it remains unknown how the health sector in Malawi is exploiting ICTs in its delivery of day-to-day operations.

Objectives: In this study, we investigate the role that ICTs play in rural health. This study will specifically determine the purposes that health surveillance assistants (HSAs) use ICTs for, assess the ICT skills and expertise of HSAs, analyse benefits of ICTs and study the problems faced by HSAs in the effective use of ICTs.

Method: In this study, a quantitative research method approach was adopted to address the research objectives. Both research sites and respondents were selected using a convenient sampling method. We self-administered and collected the questionnaire from the respondents. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) was used to analyse the data.

Results: We find that HSAs have made headways in the adoption of various forms of ICTs such as mobile phones alongside their applications (Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp). However, efforts to maximise the appropriation of ICTs by HSAs are punctuated by various hindrances including high cost of ICT gadgets, high cost of Internet bundles, inadequate training in ICTs and lack of support from senior management in the Ministry of Health.

Conclusion: Use of ICTs in community health is slowly but surely possible. In a nutshell, the study has shown that, regardless of perceivable hindrances associated with use of ICTs, HSAs use some ICTs in their work and personal activities. It is evident that using mobile phones to improve performance is an important area and that there is little interest in evaluating such interventions.


Keywords

information and communication technology; health surveillance assistant; application

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