Grameenphone Ltd. of Bangladesh has been nominated for the GSMA Best Use of Mobile for Social and Economic Development award 2007 for its HealthLine Service initiative. The HealthLine Service, implemented in cooperation with the Telemedicine Reference Center Limited, is a 24-hour Medical Call Center manned by licensed physicians and can be reached by dialing 789 from any GP number.
Doctors are on hand 24 x 7 to answer questions on medical emergencies, faciliites, drugs, and lab tests. Registered users can speak directly with a doctor about their specific condition. In a country where hospitals are few and far between, and travel is often difficult and time-consuming, this is a huge social benefit.
Registration costs Tk300 per year (about $5), and calls cost Tk15 for 3 minutes, Tk5 for every minute thereafter. (Tk60=$1.)
I discussed a fledgling telemedicine program with GrameenPhoneÂ chairman Khalid ShamsÂ while researching the book, but didn’t mention it becauseÂ the programÂ was not taking hold. It just shows you how quickly things are changing — six months later, the nascent program is well-enough developed to catch the eyes of the global GSM Association.
In 2000, GrameenPhone won the GSM in the Community award for its village-phone service, which extends telecommunications into remote rural areas. Village-phone ladies borrown money from Grameen Bank to buy phones, then lease time to villagers to pay back the loans.
The award winner will be announced at the GSMA conference in BarcelonaÂ in midÂ February.