The health sector in Southern Sudan is going high-tech.
A $2.2 million investment in computers, satellites and electricity generators by the Ministry of Health of the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) should go a long way towards bringing the speed and reliability of the sector's information systems into the 21st century.
Until now, some Southern Sudanese with sufficient economic resources have opted to seek medical treatment in neighbouring countries like Kenya and Uganda.
Small wonder, as some health care facilities in the region have no computers or even a working phone line to receive incoming calls from patients facing a life-threatening medical emergency.
But the acquisition of new equipment and training of 25 technicians in its use should streamline the management of information systems in state-run hospitals that until now have used old-fashioned file folders to store their patients' medical histories.
Five of the technicians will be assigned to the GoSS health ministry while the remaining 20 will be distributed among the various state capitals in the south.
"We have a data and software centre in the Juba Teaching Hospital which is intended to save the data in computers for future use," said Gatluak Tutdeal, director for information communication technology (ICT) at the GoSS health ministry.
The ministry has also equipped its major hospitals in Juba, Malakal and Wau with more phone lines, high-frequency radios and new computers.
The technological upgrade should enhance internet connectivity throughout the health sector and enable hospitals and clinics in different cities across Southern Sudan to communicate and exchange information at the tap of a computer keyboard.
"The use of information communications technology can be the best way to obtain success in health services," said undersecretary Stephen Lugga Juma of the GoSS Ministry of Telecommunication and Postal Services.
Mr. Lugga said his ministry plans to open ICT training institutes in Juba and other cities to train all government officials who are interested in honing their technological skills.
"A lot still needs to be done by the GoSS to enhance the knowledge and efficiency of its management," he added.
Operations manager Segane Moses of the St. Luke International Medical Centre in Juba said that raising the quality of the Southern Sudanese health sector's information and management systems to world standards will take time.
But Mr. Moses said the investment of money and manpower will pay handsome dividends in the end because "retrieving information will be easy."