The four core implementing partners of the Assistive Technology Information Mapping (AT-Info-Map) Project – SAFOD, AfriNEAD, Dimagi and UW – have so far been consulting a number of stakeholders, including AT suppliers, in Botswana. The latest supplier to be consulted is the Deaftronics, a company that assembles and provides solar rechargeable hearing aids and related accessories.
During the meeting held on 5th July 2016 with Deaftronics Founder and Operational Director, Mr. Tendekayi Katsiga, informed SAFOD and Dimagi officers that the CommCare App, when deployed, would help the company in its marketing drive for its products in Botswana and even in other nearby countries.
Deaftronics, which is owned and run by hearing impaired individuals who are also internationally certified in micro soldering techniques used in the aviation industry, has endeavored to develop its business network and improving its positioning to become a specialist centre for hearing aids in Africa. The company’s hearing aid unit, called Solar Ear, includes the first rechargeable hearing aid battery which lasts for 2-3 years and can be used in 80 percent of hearing aids on the market today. It is solar powered and can be charged via the sun, household light, or a cell phone plug.
“Besides providing basic information like the type of AT that we specialize in, our location and contacts, our expectation is that the Commcare App should also be able to provide links to our videos so that potential clients should be able to watch and appreciate our products before making contact with us,” said Mr. Katsiga.
While some of the primary aims of the At-Info-Map project include informing, through the App, the AT suppliers, manufacturers, and designers of unmet public demand, as well as connecting persons with disabilities to the available AT near their community, the App may also likely help AT suppliers in their marketing efforts for their products should some of their expectations – like those of Deaftronics – be taken on board.
Mr. Katsiga realized that hearing impaired people in rural Africa who were handed out hearing aids by various NGOs could not sustain its use as batteries were scarcely available and expensive. Mr. Katsiga’s simple solution was solar-powered hearing aids designed and manufactured by deaf people for deaf people.
Apart from providing training and empowerment to different centers including the Institute for the Deaf in Jordan, the National Institute for the Deaf in Cape Town, South Africa and Solar Ear in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Deaftronics is having significant impact both in Botswana and the whole of Africa, especially in the rural settings. Today the low-cost technology is reaching even more African children, with over 10,000 units distributed throughout the continent. In Zimababwe alone, more than 2,000 Solar Ear units have been distributed through Mercy Corps and the Nzeve Deaf Children’s Center in Mutare. The centre works closely with Mr. Katsiga, who introduced the invention there to make sure that children would be able to attend classes and learn, in spite of their hearing impairment.