Half the world’s population does not have access to essential health services, a figure that is all the more dramatic in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. With many of the world’s poorest countries having less than one doctor per 1,000 people, improving access to healthcare is a global priority.

While training medical professionals and building facilities is a long-term solution, one important way of expanding access to health services is by turning to digital tools, including mobile phones, which are often available in even the most remote and vulnerable communities.

Tech start-up Babyl Rwanda was created to seize this opportunity, and has been selected as a Global Innovator by Expo 2020 Dubai’s Expo Live programme. In Rwanda, the physician-to-population ratio is one doctor per 15,428 people, and Babyl aims to tackle this shortage of doctors, expanding access to healthcare by training clinicians to offer health consultations, prescriptions, tests and referrals via mobile phones. The service is delivered through both smartphone and feature phones to ensure accessibility for all.

Since Babyl Rwanda’s launch in 2016, it has gained more than two million registered users and has overseen more than one million consultations, with a 10-year government partnership widening access to healthcare across the whole country.

The exposure of the Expo Live Programme has contributed to Babyl’s development, as well as the spread of similar initiatives around the world.

The Expo 2020 Dubai Innovation Series is a weekly blog series highlighting some of the creative and world-changing innovations that are being showcased via Expo 2020 Dubai’s programmes and pavilions.

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