Brenda Katwesigye is a tech entrepreneur with a passion for making a difference in Uganda’s health sector by harnessing her considerable telecommunications skills. Her company, InstaHealth, has developed a new mobile app which instantly connects users to health centres, medical specialists and ambulance services, using simple technology that ordinary people in Uganda can use. Together with her co-Founder, Elizabeth Kasujja, these are two African woman entrepreneurs finding innovative solutions to everyday challenges by using the power of technology.
As part of Lionesses of Africa’s month-long celebration of women in the tech sector this March, we spoke to innovative Ugandan health tech entrepreneur, Brenda Katwesigye, about her business, her ambitions and her inspiration….
"InstaHealth is a mobile application that enables anybody with a feature phone or a smartphone to access health information instantly."
Tell us a little more about your company, InstaHealth.
InstaHealth is a mobile application that enables anybody with a feature phone or a smartphone to access health information instantly. It uses geo-location and an interactive voice response (IVR) system to instantly connect users to health centres, specialists and ambulances, whilst also providing an instant first aid guide, doctor consultations and health awareness information. This service is built on very simple technologies that more than 40 per cent of the country’s population can access.
What inspired you to start your company and to become a tech entrepreneur?
My real interest in health started when I was a 6 year old girl with dreams of becoming a doctor. I grew up in Kasubi, a suburb in Kampala whose health care system left a lot to be desired. The clinics were poorly stocked and staffed, whereas the better health care centres were far from where we lived, and were also too expensive. I did not achieve my dream of being a doctor, but I attained something else. I became a Telecommunication Engineer. Keeping in mind the rate of mobile growth, I realized that even if I was not a doctor, I could use the skills attained to make an impact within the health sector. An opportunity to share my ideas came up through the ITU Young Innovator's Competition where we received seed funding to start my company, InstaHealth. The company was registered and incorporated in Uganda in January 2014 and has since grown.
"I realized that even if I was not a doctor, I could use the skills I attained to make an impact within the health sector."
Why should anyone use your service and your mobile health information app?
Efficiency. We pride ourselves in ensuring that people calling through our service get what they are looking for. We seek to build relationships with our users to ensure that their health information queries are handled in real time. We have invested a lot of time in ensuring that this is not just another start-up looking to make money. We are all about user experience and reliability. Furthermore, in a country in which social services are not significantly wide-spread, we believe that our product fills some of the gaps in health services delivery.
Tell us a little about your team
I have worked with an amazing team of 5 young and energetic people. My co-founder, Elizabeth Kasujja is one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic people to work with. Elizabeth works well with people and she's such a complement to the team. Our head of Public Relations, Joanne Nalubeg, is dedicated and supportive. She develops all our media strategies and ensures that more people know about our service. Also to note are the dedicated team members; Laura Kabugho, Henry Tomusange and Henry Awali who do a lot of work in terms of community involvement.
"The InstaHealth service is built on very simple technologies that more than 40 per cent of the country’s population can access."
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
My entrepreneurial journey started at university where I used to broker services for fellow students and other individuals in return for pay. I also used to do graphic design for a fee. In this time, I learnt that social entrepreneurship is more sustainable - particularly in terms of social and community impact - and I chose to follow this path.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
The most important thing right now is to ensure that the service is used throughout Uganda. Ultimately, the bigger picture is to later roll it out outside the country and create more impact and sustainable social healthcare products.
"...create a quality product to solve real life challenges and there will always be opportunities to monetize your solution"
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
When a customer or user calls to say thank you for the good work, it’s an ever better feeling than getting paid.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Focus on the product. A lot of questions will come up about how you make money. But if you focus on creating a quality product that people will use to solve real life challenges, there will always be opportunities to monetize your solution.
Contact or follow InstaHealth
Why LoA Loves It….
This month, as Lionesses of Africa celebrates women making waves in the tech industry on the continent, it is wonderful to kick-start our stories with a young start-up business which is bringing much-needed access to health information to the citizens of Uganda. Brenda Katwesigye’s InstaHealth is empowering ordinary people to take charge of their health and wellness through the power of technology. We think InstaHealth is destined for great things on the African continent - watch this space. --- Melanie Hawken, Lionesses of Africa founder and editor-in-chief