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02.02.2009 Technology

Ghanaian Innovation on the Global Scene

By Ashifi Gogo

Nokia, a world leader in the trillion dollar mobile industry, just announced eleven finalists from its global innovation competition seeking new uses of mobiles with global positive impact. The “Calling All Innovators” competition attracted nearly 1000 developers worldwide, and an African mobile content developer is in the finals. The Ghanaian application, mPedigree, is the only one from the African continent to progress to the final stages.

Using cell phones, mPedigree has designed a simple yet innovative system for any member of the public in developing nations to check their medication before use, preventing them from consuming fake drugs. The WHO estimates that up to 1 in 4 drugs sold in emerging markets could be fakes that are harmful to public health. According to the US-based Center for Medicines in the Public Interest, the global trade in counterfeit medication could reach US$ 75 billion in 2010. The effects of fake drugs could be tragic, as Nigeria recently experienced the death of over 50 infants from tainted “my pikin” teething syrup. Due to a multitude of reasons, developing nations are more vulnerable to counterfeiters.

Given the dire need for a locally-relevant solution, a Ghanaian entrepreneur has developed a mobile-based solution to counterfeiting that has caught the eyes of influential global bodies like Nokia. Working with mobile telecommunications companies and drug manufacturers, mPedigree affixes unique, single-use codes on drugs at genuine manufacturing plants. When consumers purchase their drugs, they can send a free text message to a mobile shortcode, getting an instant response indicating the drug's authenticity (or otherwise). The system also boosts local drug manufacturing capacity as it allows Ghanaian firms to reclaim market share lost to counterfeiters.

Ashifi Gogo, a Ph.D. Innovation Fellow and Ghanaian entrepreneur, will be present in Barcelona, Spain at the Nokia awards ceremony this month, vying for the $25,000 top prize. Second place winners will be awarded $10,000 while third place competitors take home $5,000 towards improving their mobile applications.

The other ten finalists are: Neuscreen (Thailand), GreenDrive (Israel), Mobile Ticketing (Argentina), TigerMap (China), Green Phone (India), DigitallCS (Mexico), PhotoMap (Germany), kReader Mobile (U.S.A.), Nano Ganesh (India) and X Dancery (China).

Resources for the Editor:
WHO on fake drugs:

Nokia press release: