Credible, accessible information about public health and medicine was hard to find in Mali. That was until Dr. Tidiane Ball created Malisanté, a website that pulls news and information on a variety of health topics. Dr. Bell answered questions about why he began Malisanté and what he’s doing to improve communication about public health. Here are his responses:
How did you identify the need for developing your tool? What was your approach to developing it?
In Africa, access to information is difficult, especially in the area of health. In 2009 during my internships in hospitals in Bamako (Mali), I realized that patients had difficulty in getting information about health professionals and medical structures. This is how I decided to launch the website www.malisante.org. The goal is to facilitate access to quality medical information.
How do you recruit for the innovation center? What are people developing?
We launch a call for projects on our website and social networks. Then we proceed to select 10 of the best projects. These project leaders are coached for six months by DoniLab where our fellows work on technological projects.
Why is entrepreneurship important in the medical or public health field in Mali?
In Mali, as in all countries, governments alone can not cope with the public health challenges that are increasing each day. Entrepreneurship can solve some of the problems by developing business models to make policies more sustainable.
How do you see information and communications technology (ICT) benefiting this and other communities?
Today, ICT tools are entering the daily lives of the Malians. With access to the internet, smartphones and mobile phones increasing, these tools can easily be used to reach the largest number of people. With technology, we can do more with less.
What challenges have you encountered in launching the initiative and how did you overcome them?
We use social networks much more to publicize the initiative. In 2009, the internet penetration rate in Mali was 2 percent, so our first challenge was internet access. Then, mentalities were not ready to welcome such an innovation. Thanks to the communication and the high penetration rates of the internet and smartphones, the need for such a platform was then realized and adopted.
How should people get reliable health information? What resources do you recommend?
How can young people make a difference in the public health field? What valuable skills help them to succeed? What roles do you see them playing in their communities as health ambassadors?
Young people can make this difference by becoming more involved in the health problems of their community. They must be agents of change by taking initiatives that can help improve the quality of care in their communities.
Tidiane Ball is a medical doctor and medical IT professional. In 2009, he founded Malisanté (www.malisante.net), Mali’s medical information website and health professionals directory. He is also a co-founder of DoniLab, a co-working space and social innovation center in Mali. At DoniLab he helps young people to innovate and undertake daring projects. Since completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Tidiane has been working to inspire young people, because he believes the employment challenge will only be solved through self-employment.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government. YALI Voices is a series of podcasts, videos and blogs contributed by members of the YALI Network.