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The Virtual Doctor Project: how Bitcoin is helping to boost healthcare in rural Africa

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Everyone in the Bitcoin community has already heard about the amazing opportunities cryptocurrency can help create in Africa, but The Virtual Doctor Project (VDP) is one of the best so far. The project has been under development since 2008, but only recently started working effectively on behalf of the Zambian health system.

And, then, in August, the Virtual Doctor started accepting Bitcoin donations, which turned the project into the center of attention.

As the world is still fascinated by the simplicity, and yet amazing results, of this idea, in the meantime the website Bitcoin Warrior decided to interview Paul Mustardé, the UK director of the VDP, who briefly started by explaining the idea:

We provide a telemedicine service that connects clinical officers at rural health centres with doctors around the world for diagnostic and treatment advice, using the mobile network internet service in Zambia. We locate suitable clinics and provide computers and other IT gear, establish an internet connection, and then provide specialised telemedicine software and on-site training to get them started and also ongoing support. We have a database of doctors from a variety of medical fields that have offered to give their time and knowledge for free to answer questions from the clinic staff.

With full support from the Zambian government, the project is now prepared to spread across other regions, also with the help of cryptocurrency. The Bitcoin adventure started when “Johnathan Turrall, who is a neighbour of ours at Sussex Innovation Centre and is creating a community of Bitcoin users (companies & charities) in the Brighton area” approached Paul Mustardé, he explains.

“He mentioned that Bitcoin was possibly a new route to attracting donations and as a charity that is something we are always interested in. Once we had researched it properly and decided it was worth trying, he helped us to get started”, Mustardé adds. For now, the project isn’t able to use the Bitcoins directly to buy equipment because most suppliers still don’t accept it, but “hopefully that will happen in time”.

The project plans to convert the first cryptocurrency donations into fiat currency in the meantime. According to the British director of the service, they will “obviously look at which had the most advantageous exchange rate, but for the time being we will remain in Bitcoin and watch whether other places to spend in Bitcoin become available”.

When questioned if Bitcoin has had any impact in their fundraising so far, Mustardé says that “it hasn’t, apart from being approached by several people wanting to know about us doing so. So far it appears that the donations that we have received are from dedicated Bitcoin users who keep up to date with forums discussing the spread of use. Hopefully as the use spreads and we receive coverage by the media, that will attract the wider Bitcoin-using community to hear about us“.



Maria is an experienced journalist currently living in the UK. She has been writing about Bitcoin and the altcoin universe since 2013. She is also a member of the Lifeboat Foundation's New Money Systems Board and a big cryptocurrency supporter.

View all Posts by Maria Santos

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