News Release

PHILADELPHIA – The Botswana-UPenn Partnership (BUP) is collaborating with Microsoft, the Botswana Innovation Hub, and other global partners to launch the first telemedicine service in Africa using TV white spaces to bring internet connectivity to hospitals and clinics across rural areas of Botswana.  The pilot project, called “Project Kgolagano,” will provide clinical consultations and diagnoses to a patient population who would otherwise have to travel far distances to the capital city of Gaborone, Botswana, for specialized care.

Penn Medicine telemedicine experts and physicians, including Doreen Ramogola-Masire, MD, Country Director of the BUP and cervical cancer expert and Ryan Littman-Quinn, ‎director of Mobile Health Informatics at BUP, will provide the support and medical expertise for the referred patients. Harvey Friedman, MD, director of BUP, is the principal investigator of Project Kgolagano, which means “to be connected or networked.”

The BUP, a program of the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania, is comprised of three main partners: the Government of Botswana, the University of Botswana, and the University of Pennsylvania working together to build capacity in sustainable and high quality healthcare in Botswana through clinical care, research and medical education.

Founded in 2001, the BUP provides expert care focusing in areas related to HIV, tuberculosis, cervical cancer, including co-morbid, multidrug resistant and complicated cases, and dermatology, among others.

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.

Project Kgolagano will have a specific focus on providing access to specialized maternal medicine, which will improve the livelihoods of women located in small towns and rural areas.

It will initially run in three 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.

This latest project builds off of BUP’s continuing telemedicine efforts with cell phone technology in the country to help bring better clinical care to patients afar.

“This unique and innovative project will allow underserved patients in the rural areas of Botswana to have better access to the health care they need,” said Friedman, who is also professor of Medicine in the division of Infectious Diseases at Penn. “People won’t have to travel hundreds of miles to the see specialists, which are lacking in many of the rural hospitals in the country. They will be able to engage with Penn Medicine doctors and residents who work over there from their local hospitals and clinics in a live telemedicine connection that will deliver care in a faster, more convenient, and cost-effective manner.”

Other collaborators on the project include Global Broadband Solutions, Vista Life Sciences, BoFiNet, Adaptrum and USAID-NetHope.

Check out this video highlighting the project, which features BUP’s Ryan Littman-Quinn and Kagiso Ndlovu:

Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $8.6 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $494 million awarded in the 2019 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center—which are recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report—Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; and Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is powered by a talented and dedicated workforce of more than 43,900 people. The organization also has alliances with top community health systems across both Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, creating more options for patients no matter where they live.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2019, Penn Medicine provided more than $583 million to benefit our community.

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