Approaching health care digitally
Shareplus Ethiopia is a company started by local IT graduates with the support of the South Korean Government. It aspires to help and transform the way training to health workers in rendered via E-learning and animation. The Reporter’s Samuel Getachew spoke to Dawit Eshetu on the company, what it does, on how it intends to transform the sector, on partnership and on its long-term vision. Excerpts:
The Reporter: Tell me about SharePlus Ethiopia?
Dawit Eshetu: SharePlus is a non-governmental start-up company founded in Ethiopia this year. It is developing digital educational material and related works in graphics design field across the nation. While it’s a new company, we have been providing important and practical services. We want to improve the way training is provided to healthcare workers, since they are an important integral part of the nation’s vulnerable healthcare system.
What sets us apart from the rest of our competitors is our ability to customize our offering to customers’ needs, as well as our fantastic team of youthful specialists. We know the real impact of what we do and money is not the primary motivation of what we do. Our satisfaction is doing that, having the need of the public best addressed.
One of the signature projects of the company is introducing the concept of digitized healthcare. Tell me about that?
As you may know, health extension program is a community based health system which brings basic health services to where people live and work across the nation – in the rural parts more specifically where services are scarce and limited. The health extension program, as a system, is a bridge that links the health sector and the community. It has been implemented over a decade across the country and it has success stories in regards to providing the right knowledge and skill to the households so that they can take responsibility and maintain their own health.
The term eLearning is broad and covers a range of activities from supported learning to blended learning (the combination of traditional and E-Learning practices) to learning that is delivered entirely online. Blended learning combines online learning with Face-to-Face (F2F) teaching. At least part of the course is taught online whilst still requiring delegates to attend training in a F2F environment. Blended learning is useful because it allows you to provide online support materials alongside more traditional F2F training.
What is its long-term objective?
One of our objectives is to upgrade the health extension professionals’ knowledge; attitude and skills through periodically updated using appropriate digital technology to enable them provide good quality health care service to the community. By digitizing HEW (health extension workers) module, there is much benefit such as bringing the idea of cost effective to the front. That offers a lot of cost saving because there are costs like transportation and accommodation for the trainer as well as the trainee to interact from where ever they are.
There is more. There is flexibility such as allowing students all kinds of methods on how they receive their education, as well as training. You know every trainee has their own way of learning and there is also a chance for interaction – online course could be less intimidating than the traditional classroom setting and could help student interaction and most students get to control their own study time. Trainee may not have time to sit for a long time and the lesson or training can be paused when needed and also note can be taken at any time. We intend to make the experience of learning affordable, accessible and extended to those who may not normally take advantage of it for various reasons. We bring the training to where the people are, where ever they are and that is important for us.
We are one that observes, listens and travels in all part of the nation and sometimes in other parts of the world, to learn and see how we can even make is easier for others. We take lessons from our own experiences and constantly put our ears on the ground to be a company of 2019, not one stationed exclusively in the old ways of doing things. We cannot longer circle around in old ways, but take lessons and also embrace new and modern ways. That is important for us.
Why do you think such a system is more cost effective?
That is quite clear because the need and the demand is everywhere across the nation. The very obvious answer is it helps with the issue of travel for many, including the need for accommodation that is an added cost, venue rental/meeting room maintenance, time spent away from work. There is also the need to pay facilitators, instructors and printing costs. All the points that are listed above are the reason for escalating cost if we can solve this issues we can minimize the cost very effectively. But above all else, learning from the experiences of how other nations have developed their system, putting in mind convenience and cost, we have developed a system we are convinced would help change the narrative of how training is provided to essential workers that are valued and needed across the nation.
One entity helping you implement the idea, I understand, is the Korean government.
KOICA (Korea International Cooperation Agency) is one of our most prominent donors supporting this project. That has come by way of financial support and knowledge transfer which is profoundly important to Ethiopia. As it is known, the agency has been engaged in Ethiopia, since 1995, helping and contributing in the nation’s education, health care and manufacturing industries. It is one that values what we do and knows well our works impact on the ground. There is much to learn from them and we are and they are helping us meet our objective on the ground and see us make such a profound impact.
What is the long-term vision of SharePlus?
We are new and we know that. There is the added learning curve that we still have to climb. However, we are also ambitious and we know our potential and limitations. We have good partners and those that help us move forward. We aspire to become the best company in Ethiopia, and across the region in producing E-learning materials supported with animation and videos for all levels of learning. We also want to become one of the best Graphics Design Company in Ethiopia. We also want to expand our business and get in contact with those looking for our specialized services; more specifically graphics design jobs or E-learning. Currently, we are working with the Ministry of Health and the Health Bureau of the Oromia Regional State).
We are preparing a plan and we have already signed a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with both institutions. There is more in the pipeline and we are very excited with the opportunity that is out there for us and the work ahead does not overwhelms us, but keeps us motivated to move forward. How many people can say that? We are lucky and fortunate. The future is exciting for us.