These innovative smart lockers are improving access to medication

These innovative smart lockers are improving access to medication


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The results are in, and the winner of this year’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation is Pelebox! The prestigious award, founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, is Africa’s biggest prize dedicated to engineering innovation. We looked at the some of the other shortlisted companies earlier in the year, but Pelebox’s improvement to access to medication that stole the show.

Demonstrating a commitment to design and complex technology, Pelebox is a digital platform that manages various internet-enabled smart lockers. These lockers allow patients to collect repeat prescriptions for chronic conditions in under five minutes, rather than having to wait for long periods of time at public clinics.

The founder of Pelebox, Neo Hutiri, is the first person from South Africa to win this award. When he was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) in 2014, he saw firsthand how wait times affect access to medication.

“My biggest challenge was the long waiting times at the clinic. I was losing over three hours on long queues with every visit … It’s really challenging having to plan your day around a visit to the clinic.”

He wasn’t the only one experiencing this problem. He saw just how many people in Bophelong township were waiting for medication, with some skipping work just to collect their prescriptions. Many had to choose between accessing medicine and earning a steady income — a choice no one should have to make. 

Neo used his own experience and understanding of the system in South Africa to transform the way people access their medication. By creating a locker system that patients can unlock with a unique pin, he has helped cut queues down to minutes. This has also helped people who have stigmatized illnesses, such as HIV, by allowing them to collect medicine discreetly.

Pelebox smart lockers are present in a range of places — even local shopping malls — making them a convenient way to ensure people can look after themselves without missing work or school.

Check out some of the other awesome inventions on the shortlist here.

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