The gigantic opportunity of mHealth

The aim is to create scalable, sustainable and standardized projects, meaning lower costs, more uniformity, and faster take-up.

In the developed world broadband is king. If faced with a simple dial-up line you can hear the complaints for days. (Picture from Flickr and the UN Foundation.)

But in most of the world mobile is the only way to go. Cellular links reach deep into the bush of even the poorest nations, connecting people and markets. It is as revolutionary as the telegraph because the service comes to you.

I have an abiding interest in mobile health, especially in Africa. The idea that you can take a diagnostic image with a mobile phone, and get a report back, I find amazing.

So the launch of the Mobile Health Alliance by the Rockefeller Foundation, Ted Turner's UN Foundation and Vodafone is a milestone.

The aim is to create scalable, sustainable and standardized projects, meaning lower costs, more uniformity, and faster take-up.

The work will not be easy. Some countries see mobile links replacing the taxes which once made phone calls so expensive. Others see it as a concession to sell, a source of graft. As a result regulations and distribution channels vary widely, Vital Wave Consulting notes.

The work is being launched with a study of what is happening, which hopefully can quickly turn into an action plan. Information on the work is being hosted at the UN Foundation's Web site.

My hope is these groups can create compelling business models that result in mHealth entrepreneurship. That's how mobile telephony first succeeded, small entrepreneurs taking phones into the bush and charging a fee for each call.

Adding value to what this entrepreneurial infrastructure already provides would be ideal.