Guest blog by 2018 The Hague Innovator YAPILI:

"What an incredible way to kick-start the new year"

Last month, ImpactCity’s brand-new 2018 The Hague Innovators were announced. Health startup YAPILI took home both the second prize and public award. Combined, they amount to a staggering €25,000 in prize money to go towards the further development of their service. In her guest contribution below, YAPILI’s Enya Séguin reflects on the year ahead.

Winning the public prize and second prize in the The Hague Innovators Challenge is our biggest milestone yet. It was an incredible way to kick-start the year 2018 and we look forward to the exciting road ahead.

In order to achieve our goals this year, we must continue to demystify various factors that our solution involves. “Did you know that access to mobile technology and connectivity is growing much faster than access to healthcare in many African countries?” That was the question that kick-started my pitch for the The Hague Innovators Challenge at Big Improvement Day.

Exposing the gap

The use of mobile technologies is growing rapidly in many developing countries. Meanwhile, improvements in accessibility, affordability and quality of healthcare are still a challenge in many African countries. We aim to continue to expose this gap through facts from our primary and secondary market research in our African markets. Even more importantly, the only way to fill this gap is to create impact.

The lack of government funding and strategic prioritization of healthcare in many of our African markets has not only created barriers for individuals to receive health advice. It has also been detrimental to the management of chronic illnesses, emerging non-communicable diseases, as well as mental and sexual health.

Leveraging connectivity

Approximately 0.2 physicians are available to every 1,000 Kenyans. Meanwhile, Kenya is a world leader in mobile money with 88% of the population having access to the internet through their phones, thanks to cheaper data plans and the ubiquitous use of mobile money platforms like Mpesa.

Even in Kibera, Africa’s largest urban slum, 80% of residents have access to a smartphone. When I spoke to one of the District Officials of Kibera in July, it was clear that there has been a total cultural shift in Kenya, as well as other African countries, towards leveraging the high use of connectivity and mobile technology for practical day-to-day utility – even in the some of the most deprived and low-resource regions.

Kenya is one of our key markets this year, where the disruptive power of mobile technology can have a huge impact on empowering thousands and possibly millions of individuals, families and communities to take control of their health.

Bigger and better

Our ultimate goal this year is to make YAPILI bigger and better: by increasing the availability of our solution into rural and remote areas in our target markets. Two key elements that will become integrated into our solution are: SMS function and community health workers.

One of our integral functions is empowerment. We empower our users to have access to a secure and confidential platform to discuss stigmatized health concerns. We empower women and men to freely discuss mental and sexual health with local and international health professionals.

Ultimately, the integration of community health workers sheds light on a new facet of empowerment. More than 90% of community health workers across the African continent are women. When integrated into healthcare delivery models, these women are building their confidence, their financial independence, and raising their status in their villages.

What’s to come

Access to healthcare is no longer confined to borders thanks to widespread mobile technologies in development countries. This is why YAPILI strives for the decentralization of healthcare to enable users in Nigeria to receive health advice from a licensed physician in Kenya or The Netherlands.

However, strengthening local systems is a big part of our action plan this year. This will be achieved by securing key partnerships with organizations that have initiatives and a local presence in our markets.

Interested to hear more about YAPILI’s journey? Read about how they won first prize in Botswana’s Seedstars competition. Also, check back here and have a look at their website or follow them on Facebook.