After surviving another bout of malaria in 2012, Brian Gitta dreamed up an app-based malaria diagnostic device. He asked friends at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda — where he was studying computer science — to help him develop the tool, which they called Matibabu, a Swahili term for “treatment.”
Gitta’s idea, which involves a hardware device called matiscope that uses light sensors to determine the number of red blood cells and a smartphone app that displays the results, quickly gained popularity. The device, which promises to diagnose malaria without the need for blood extraction, won several awards in various tech and innovation competitions, including the International Technology Award during the Higher Solutions Education Network’s annual technology conference in 2013. Merck also awarded the app creators with 25,000 euros ($26,935) in funding, as well as coaching sessions and workshops under a three-month accelerator program in March 2016.