Nigeria’s Engineers won ITU’s connect2recover Research Competition: set to address incident of Medical tourism in the country.

By Isqil Najim

A team of Nigeria’s Engineers and Scientists led by NIGCOMSAT Director, Engr Dr Lasisi Lawal Salami (C.Eng. UK) has won first ever international research competition tagged connect2recover Award organised by the ITU. The competition which received 307 entries from 80 countries across the five continents had 15 outstanding winners which includes the Nigerian team.

Connect2Recover is an ITU global initiative that aims to reinforce digital infrastructure and ecosystems of beneficiary countries. The initiative seeks to galvanize action for affordable
and reliable connectivity as part of COVID-19 recovery strategies and also assesses risks due to natural hazards in strengthening resilience of digital infrastructure.

The competition involved identification of research proposals that have potential in fostering digital inclusion and digital resilience during the global recovery; specifically in the key areas of education, jobs and healthcare.It involves collaborations between
developed and developing countries.

Fifteen research grants, each of a value of USD 42,000, were awarded to the winning research teams across world. The package also includes support to the winners from ITU to engage with policymakers in collecting data and information necessary for their research.

The Nigeria’s team winning Research, “Digital Health Inclusion to Enhance Nigeria’s Health Service Delivery” aims to address health services struggles which has been plagues with brain drain, insufficient infrastructure, poor and inadequate medical facilities to rural and remote regions and inadequate specialist skills. It aims to arrest the incident of medical tourism that is costing the country over $1.3 billion annually.

The researchers proposed to mitigate these shortcomings by making use of digital solutions enabling shared specialist resources that reside in Nigerian central health facilities. The project and case study deployed the application and resilience of communications satellite technology to provide telemedicine services. It founds that such can critically improve access to high quality healthcare advice and services. Utilizing this technology, early
diagnosis and prompt treatment are a realizable goal.

Such an implementation will enhance
the persistence and resilience of broadband availability beyond the pandemic and will as well explore creating a mobile emergency response facility that can be quickly deployed to a disaster location or internally displaced persons (IDP) camps to extend emergency healthcare service delivery in an attempt to enhance the nation’s
disaster response preparedness and effectiveness utilizing communications satellite technology and software applications.

When fully implemented,the project will deepen access to Telemedicine through deployment of satellite technologies to provide sufficient broadband coverage. Satellite networks aims to provide secure services in rural areas, underserved and unserved locations in developing countries.

It will determine if and how such a network can help to leverage specialist hospitals to enhance and improve sustainable healthcare service delivery in rural areas. The aim is to validate the case for delivering rural and community healthcare services sustainably within a nationwide network with real-time video consultation using software applications.

The Nigeria’s winning team include: principal Investigator, Engr. Dr. Lasisi Salami LAWAL (CEng). Other participants are; Prof. Abiodun Musa Aibinu; Dr. Omotayo O. Oshiga; Prof. Steve A. Adeshina; Prof. Chatwin R Chris; Prof. Gail Davey; Dr. Abdulrahaman Jaafar; Dr. Ubong Udoyen; Dr. Abimbola Alale; Prof. Mohammed Nasir Sambo; Prof. Abdullahi Bala; Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami).

The evaluation and selection of the fifteen winning research proposals out of 307 was carried out by a global five-member jury led by Professor Ahmad Reza Sharafat, Professor of Electrical and computer Engineering at Tarbiat Modares University, I. R Iran. Other members of the jury are: Professor Ellen Helsper, Professor of Digital Inequalities at Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom; Ms. Ida Nganga, Regional Head Anglophone Countries of UNESCO Emerging Technologies for Development Steering Committee, which is based in Bordeaux, France; and from the ITU, Mr. Cosmas Zavazava, Chief of Partnerships for Digital Development Department and Ms. Nur Sulyna Abdullah, Chief of Digital Knowledge Hub. Some of the criteria used in arriving at the final winners are: Collaborations, Relevance, Impact, viability, sustainability, novelty and implementation plan.

Roles of each researcher and Collaborators in carrying the research proposal are as follows:

Dr Lasisi Salami LAWAL (C.Eng) (Principal Investigator: Investigates effectiveness of Communications Satellite Technologies with other Digital Systems and Platform together with co-Investigators to Deliver Digital Healthcare Delivery solutions)
Senior Research Fellow, Advanced Engineering Innovation Research Group (AEIRG), Federal University of Technology, Minna; Research Fellow, Electrical/Electronics Engineering, Nile University of Nigeria; Acting General Manager, Satellite Applications, Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd .

Professor Abiodun Musa AIBINU (Co- Investigator on Digital Systems to Deliver Digital Healthcare Service Solutions and Head of AEIRG); Professor of Mechatronics, Department of Mechatronics Engineering, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State.

Dr. Omotayo O. Oshiga (Co-Investigator: Investigates Mobile and Wireless Communication Techniques). Head of Department, Electrical/Electronics Engineering, Nile University of Nigeria.

Dr. Abdulrahaman Jaafar (Co-Investigator: Administration of Digital Healthcare Solutions Trials as pilot at Aviation Medical Clinic, FAAN )
Head of Department and Assistant Chief Medical Officer, Aviation Medical Clinics, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria.

Dr. Ubong Udoyen (Co-Investigator: Administration of The Mobile Emergency VSAT Equipment with Digital Healthcare Solutions Trials at IDP Camps as well as contributions in investigation of Software Application for a near-real application utilizing Satellite Technology together with Principal Investigator, Co-Investigators and Software Developer) CEO, One2One Healthcare and Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, USA.

Professor Steve A. Adeshina ( Co-Supervisor: Supervision); Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Nile University of Nigeria.

Professor Chatwin R Chris (Advisor and Supervisor: Advisory and Supervision); Professor in Engineering, Engineering and Design, School of Engineering and Informatics, Room 2B07, Shawcross Building, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton-UK, BN1 9QT.

Professor Gail Jewell Grose DAVEY (Advisor and Co-Supervisor: Advisory and Supervision); Professor of Global Health Epidemiology; Member, Commonwealth Scholarship Commission Academic Adviser Panel; Co-Chair, NIHR Global Health Research Programme Training Steering Group, Brighton & Sussex Medical School,University of Sussex, 94 N – S Rd, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9PX, United Kingdom.

Professor Abdullahi Bala;fsssn (Supervisor: Advisory and Supervision ); Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State and President of the Association of West Africa Universities (AWAU). .

Dr. Abimbola Alale (Supervisor: Advisory and Supervision ); Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd.

Professor Mohammed Nasir Sambo (Supervisor: Advisory and Supervision ); Professor of Health Policy and Management with Bias for Health Care Financing and Keen Interest in Digital Technology for Health Systems, Executive Secretary of The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), (Supervisor: Advisory and Supervision); Professor of Cyber Security and Honorable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy of Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies – ICTs. Founded in 1865 to facilitate international connectivity in communications networks, it allocates global radio spectrum and satellite orbits, develop the technical standards that ensure networks and technologies seamlessly interconnect, and strive to improve access to ICTs to underserved communities worldwide.

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