In line with the government’s Emerging Gabon Strategic Plan, the ICT sector is rapidly expanding into many different areas of local life, from taxation to education to health. With an estimated 1.1m internet subscriptions as of March 2016, of which around 1.08m subscriptions were with mobile internet providers, Gabon has one of the highest internet penetration rates in Central Africa. As a result of the ongoing development of an extensive government fibre-optics network and a suite of e-government functionalities, such as the e-tax and the e-visa, the country is well on the way to growing its reputation as an ICT hub for Central Africa.
Digital Health Plan
One element of this push to boost ICT usage among Gabon’s citizens is a $56m project financed by the World Bank called eGabon, launched in September 2015. The eGabon project revolves around two components: the digitisation of the country’s health care system; and the creation of local digital content, apps and services that help the broader economy and improve the delivery of the country’s health care services.
The primary feature of eGabon is the deployment of a National Health Information System ( Système National d’Information Sanitaire, SNIS). The country’s current information system, under which each health provider collects its own data, sometimes leads to the duplication of work and can result in a lack of transparency. The new SNIS will help create a centralised health information platform, which will hold data on many different aspects of health care, including lists of doctors and hospitals.
In addition to improving transparency and efficiency in the health sector, the SNIS will also have broader implications on health security in West and Central Africa. The government is currently exploring an epidemic monitoring tool that would gather the necessary data to determine whether a disease outbreak is under way and send out alerts and information to the population. This could help limit the risk of cross-border contamination.
Charged with implementing the project, the Ministry of Health and the National Agency for Digital Infrastructure and Frequencies (Agence Nationale des Infrastructures Numériques et des Fréquences, (ANINF) are currently laying the groundwork for its rollout, which is expected to finish by the end of 2016.
The new SNIS is also expected to pave the way for improved transparency in other areas of public record-keeping as well. “First and foremost, eGabon cannot be implemented without a proper census that can be conducted in stages,” Sleidje Blanchard Mavoungou, project chief at ANINF, told OBG. “First, you conduct a census on the population old enough to vote using a biometric system. Then you open it up to the rest of the population.” Carrying out a national census would enable the creation of a single identity number which could be matched to individual census records and biometric prints and used across the various e-government platforms.
While eGabon’s first health component revolves mainly around the public administration level, the second component, which aims to facilitate the creation of digital start-ups, is aimed at improving different aspects of health care delivery.
In 2015 preparations began on the creation of a new ICT incubator site in Libreville. The site aims to provide the infrastructure and environment necessary to attract entrepreneurs, who will look at improving various aspects of the national health care system, including human and financial resources, and equipment and infrastructure. It is hoped that the local ICT sector will be incentivised to generate new ideas, applications and platforms to support the government’s initiative. Indeed, with the use of mobile internet and smartphones widespread in Gabon, there is considerable potential to innovate in the way the population accesses health care services.