Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

Norman Schräpel, Mitarbeiter am Seminar für Ethnologie

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Norman Schräpel - Aktuelles Projekt

Information and Communication Technologies, Medical Data Production and the Politics of Global Health in Rwanda

This research project juxtaposes data production and medical practice in Ruanda. It will follows at least three questions: The first is concerned with the ways in which (bio)medical data is produced and managed (1). Thereby it is assumed that a complex therapeutic apparatus (i.e. global health) is co-producing a vast corpus of data that is used to plan medical interventions, receive funding or integrate new policies. (2) An additional focus to understand the relation between data and medical practice will be by looking into shifts of the medical gaze. The deployment of digital health services – so could be argued – support a shift in the medical gaze from the body of the patient to the monitors that construct a digital picture of a patient’s body through data. Medical data and images are becoming a new objectivity and evidential power with the employment of new medical technologies. This goes along with huge expectations and an emerging hype in information and communication technologies (ICTs) for the use in health care. (3) The third focus will therefore be on the ways these technologies provide new access to data and knowledge and thereby access to treatment.

For many reasons Rwanda is an ideal place to study these questions. According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, and many others, Rwanda is seen as East Africa’s (new) number one ICT nation. Its engagement with information and communication technologies in the last decade can be read as a radical intervention in the infrastructure of the state. In 2000 Rwanda declared “the Vision 2020”, announcing the transformation from Rwanda’s agriculture-based economy to a knowledge-based middle-income economy within the next 20 years. Many commentators of this process find a new success story for Africa.

TRACnet

TRACnet

TRACnet, an initative by Rwanda’s Ministry of Health, will be the starting point for this research. The main goal of TRACnet is to ensure that diagnosis, treatment and drugs are rapidly dispensed in areas where medical infrastructures are limited. Thereby it concentrates on the provision, monitoring and diagnosis of infectious diseases such as Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. It was established and implemented by the Treatment and Research AIDS Centre (TRAC) in 2005 and unites different health facilities to implement their services via an ICT-based platform: the National Reference Laboratory provides results of blood tests; the Rwanda Drug, Consumables and Equipment Central Procurement Agency (CAMERWA) keeps stock of the availability of ARV drugs; and TRAC monitors and supervises health facilities that provide ARV treatment in the country. The system is also used to track critical indicators. TRACnet uses mobile phones that are charged by solar energy and therefore are supposed to function even in the most remote parts of Rwanda.

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