AI start-ups step into health sector to simplify, deliver solutions and information

Thursday October 20 2022
Youth in health sector

The quality and access to healthcare continues to be a challenge in Rwanda as health facilities in rural areas struggle to access the nances and technology required to render quality services. Picture: Cyril Ndegeya

By Ange Iliza

Tech startups are using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to bring healthcare information and solutions to the fingertips of tech-disadvantaged Rwandans and resource-strapped medical staff in rural areas.

Rwanda’s healthcare quality and access continue to be challenged as health facilities in rural areas struggle to access the finances and technology required to deliver quality service.

For instance, a Rwandan woman has 1 in 85 chances of dying during or after childbirth mostly due to Cesarean section wounds, UN data shows. The maternal death ratio is 240 women per 100,000 against the UN’s goal of 70 deaths per 100,000 women by 2030.

Audace Nakeshimana, a former student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently partnered with researchers from MIT, Harvard University, and Partners in Health and proposed a solution to address the problem. They developed a mobile health (mHealth) platform that uses AI and real-time computer vision to predict infection in C-section wounds with roughly 90 percent accuracy.

The idea is to employ mobile phones that could be used by community health workers to visit new mothers in their homes and inspect their wounds to detect infection.

The first step in the project mid this year was gathering a database of wound images in rural Rwanda. They collected over 1,000 images of wounds and then trained an algorithm.


Nakeshimana founded a startup, Insightiv Technologies, in 2020 during his senior year at MIT. The startup applies AI algorithms for the analysis of clinical images and was a top grant awardee of $16,000 at the annual MIT IDEAS competition in 2020. Insightiv will develop an app to be used by health workers who visit patients in their homes.

Local touch

Remy Muhire, a so ware engineer based in Kigali, is working to bring health care information to phone screens of Rwandans in the remotest areas.

He brings information about Covid-19 to their phones, written or spoken in Kinyarwanda, free of charge. Muhire, a 30-year-old co-founder of Pindo, a communications startup, has worked with Rwanda Biomedical Center to develop a phone AI chatbot that interacts with users via USSD code in Kinyarwanda.

Dubbed ‘Mbaza chat bot’, the function can be accessed freely by dialing *154# on both smart and featured phones. Muhire has worked with a Mozilla Firefox web browser, to develop AI services in local languages such as Kinyarwanda, Luganda, and Swahili.

His startup, Pindo, was shortlisted to receive non-dilutive capital from the Google Startups Black Founders Fund in Africa in September.