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The new ‘digital doctor’



MASERU-Growing up in Mohlakeng in Mohale’s Hoek in the 1990s, Rorisang Motlomelo never entered dreams of becoming a doctor or a lawyer like many girls her age. All she wanted was to resolve people’s problems. When she completed her high school at St Stephen’s High School in Mohale’s Hoek in 2007, Motlomelo packed her bags and left for Maseru where she was to study for an Honours degree in Software Engineering and Multimedia at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology. It was the beginning of the fulfilment of a life-long dream to use technology to promote business. Motlomelo was to later study social entrepreneurship at the University of Pretoria. She is currently studying for her MBA with IUBH, a university in Germany. In 2015, Motlomelo’s mother was involved in a serious road accident. It was that sad and traumatic incident that sparked a brilliant business idea that had laid dormant in her mind. As her mother lay in her bed recuperating, Motlomelo realised how difficult it was to access quality health care services in Lesotho. “Finding sound medical advice was such a challenge especially because the incident had occurred outside Maseru,” Motlomelo says. Motlomelo teamed up with her friend, Mosa Matamane, a project manager to set up an app that locals could use to access medical assistance at any time of the day wherever they would be. The challenge, however, was the level of digital penetration in Lesotho. “Most people still had no digital presence and some who had it were still not keen on using the platforms due to fear of (invasion) of (their) privacy,” Motlomelo says. But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Lesotho last year, some Basotho turned to technology to save their lives. It was at that moment that Motlomelo and Matamane realised this was the right time to strike. Last Friday, after months of intense work, the two women launched DigiDoc, Lesotho’s first medical app to ease access to healthcare. By using the application, Basotho will no longer need to queue at clinics or at pharmacies to get their medicines. All they have to do is log onto the app and describe their illness, get a consultation and prescription, make a payment online and their medication will be delivered to their doorstep by Urban Taxis, a local taxi company. “It is basically having a doctor in your pocket,” she said. “However, with this first phase we are launching the pharmacy side of it. Patients can order medication from their pharmacies and get medication delivered.” That way, patients will not have to risk their lives in long queues as is currently happening to get their medication. “(We want) this service to be available countrywide; we want to get to a point where Basotho do not have to go to South Africa to see medical specialists,” she says. “They can consult with those specialists while still here in Lesotho.” Matamane says Basotho can download DigiDoc from Google play store. “However, at the moment only android users can access the app, we will launch the iPhone version soon,” Matamane says. The app can also be accessed through their website where one can download the APK file for installation. “The app is user-friendly and only needs 11MB for installation,” she says. Speaking at the virtual launch, the CEO of Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (Bedco), Ida Penane, said Covid-19 had ushered in a new normal which is presenting new opportunities for entrepreneurs. “Challenges posed by Covid-19 have necessitated that everyone utilise technology and made it necessary for local entrepreneurs to have an online presence,” Penane said. Tele-health, she said, is a critical aspect that has been missing in Lesotho’s health landscape. “I congratulate you on this brilliant venture, especially seeing that you are women entering a male-dominated industry,” she said. “DigiDoc is a milestone for Basotho and for the industry and I cannot wait to use it.” Penane said all have witnessed long queues outside of pharmacies exposing people to the Covid-19 virus “but with this app people will now get pharmacy services in the comfort of their homes”. She added that when fully operational the app will also assist in cutting costs associated with travelling to South Africa to meet specialists. Thapelo Ntsiki from E-Legal Ink, a digital legal consultancy company, said the new normal also calls for policymakers to develop policies that are compatible with the way business is being done at the moment and in alignment with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “Laws governing innovative technologies are lacking and slowing down development,” Ntsiki said. He added that in terms of privacy, DigiDoc users must relax and know that all measures have been taken to ensure that users’ privacy is guaranteed. “People often hesitate to utilise digital platforms for fear of getting their privacy invaded,” he said. “DigiDoc is a safe platform that can be used by anyone”. Lemohang Rakotsoane

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