After five years of working in tech and healthcare in East Africa, Maria Rabinovich and Caitlin Dolkart asked themselves one very important question: how is it that people can easily get a cab or food at the click of a button, but not an ambulance? So they came up with an idea, an app that connects users to emergency response, whether an ambulance or a fire service.
Although the ultimate goal is for the app, Flare, to be a ‘Uber for emergency services,’ Maria and Caitlin launched Flare in stages starting last December. First, they integrated a group of companies operating ambulances and fire trucks on to Flare, which uses a map to show the availability and whereabouts of these emergency services.
In typical Uber fashion, ambulance and fire truck drivers will be equipped with smartphones and Google maps, with the exact location of pickup and directions that account for traffic. Users of the app will be able to call for an ambulance and also track and communicate with the dispatched team until it arrives. Armed with these features, Flare will definitely save lives and prevent avoidable deaths like that of the three-month old baby who died while waiting for an ambulance for hours.
Quartz reports that Flare is connecting users to more than 50 ambulances and up to 10 fire trucks. There are also plans to expand the fleet and add private security and police. Users are rest assured that the companies and ambulances on Flare have adequate insurance, registration, certification, personnel and equipment. “We are building the underlying infrastructure behind a 911 system,” Dolkart told Quartz last December. But, although, users will get percentage cuts on services booked on the app, the cost of ordering an ambulance (between 3,500 and 8,500 Kenyan shillings) will remain standard, catering to Kenya’s middle class for the time being.
As with most startups, developing Flare was not particularly easy for Maria and Dolkart with regards to funding. According to Dolkart, healthcare startups have traditionally not gotten a lot of attention from investors, partly because of questions over whether health care should be a public service or one provided by private companies. And although opportunities for multi-sectoral collaboration are opening in the health space, it is a rather slow development, particularly between health and tech. But hopefully, as technology becomes an increasingly powerful tool for innovation, the convergence of health and tech industries could potentially spur stages of development in Kenya’s health sector.