SatelLife is an international not-for-profit organisation, which began as an initiative of the group known as International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, SatelLife aims to promote the use of micro-satellite technology to serve the health communication and information needs of countries in the developing world SatelLife administers HealthNet, which uses a 'store and forward'satellite in a pole-to-pole orbit, HealthSat, in order to facilitate the transmission of messages and information between the ground stations over which it passes. The system is relatively cheap to install and is independent of the notoriously unreliable communications infrastructures of Third World countries, relying as it does on radio rather than telephone links between each ground station and the satellite. HealthNet is specifically designed to facilitate the exchange of information among health professionals in the developing world and to link them with their colleagues in First World countries. Essentially an e-mail, system, HealthNet has been installed in several northern African countries as well as Cuba. However, HealthNet is also used to facilitate the distribution of an electronic newsletter among African medical librarians. Although South Africa is technologically far more advanced than the rest of Africa, problems still arise in terms of the transmission of essential health statistics and data that is now required for demographic and healthcare planning in terms of the ANC's new health policy. Accordingly, a pilot study linking three of the more wider-developed regions in South Africa has recently been established under the coordination of a national manager. In South Africa, the system will be known as HealthLink, as HealthNet already exists as a trademark in this country. This paper aims to describe the background leading to the establishment of HealthLink, as well as its current status in the improvement of electronic healthcare information delivery in South Africa.
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