Smart Delivery with SmartVouchers
I am back in Uganda until January working on the output-based aid project for STI treatment. There are several Berkeley projects in the country with some collaboration across project sites. TIER doctoral student and good friend Melissa Ho is working on the Blum Center’s initiatives across Africa this summer. She’s got a few posts about the OBA work and I’m cross posting them here.
I’ve been in Uganda for almost a week now, doing a needs assessment with the East Africa Blum Fellows smartphone team – on whether and how smartphones can be used in the context of healthcare in Uganda. We’ve had meetings all over Kampala, with Satellife/Healthnet Uganda, the Ministry of Health, and various people at Makarere University. See my flickr account for a photo diary.
My most productive meeting so far has been with Francis and Gerry at Microcare, Uganda’s largest insurance company. Ben Bellows has been working with Microcare and Marie Stopes International on Output Based Aid (OBA), a voucher-based scheme for the delivery of STI treatment in the Mbarara district 6 hours drive west of Kampala (by the way, I just arrived in Mbarara yesterday). Ben and I (along with Mahad and Sonesh) have been talking about how to integrate smartphones into the voucher claims process and recently won a CITRIS award to fund the implementation of a pilot deployment. So when I arrived in Kampala, I made plans to meet Microcare and MSI to talk about our plans.
What strikes me most about Gerry and Francis is how fast they think. Having learned all about their insurance system, I asked why they didn’t use smart cards for the OBA program as well. In a flurry of conversation we realized that the smart cards are durable enough to be reused – and would be a useful platform for a new rural program promoting antenatal care. Rather than using vouchers, which could be resold or appropriated, they will issue smart cards for the 9-month duration of the pregnancy, recording visits. The “admission” into the program would be the cost of the smart card (about $1), and upon completion the patients would return the card in exchange for a small gift (we were thinking of baby socks). Within five minutes of my question, we not only had a whole scheme worked out, we also had a name: Smart Delivery. Using smartphones enabled with smart card readers we can set up a rural terminal such that transactions can be delivered efficently via SMS at extremely low cost. Within one hour, we had defined a protocol, and Francis had assigned the project to one of his software engineers (Microcare insources their work to a wholly owned software company in Chennai) and made plans to complete the work by June 15th. I’ll keep you posted on what happens! In the meantime, I’ve loaned them my two GPRS modems, so they will be testing the system using two PCs. I’ll see what I can do to implement the smartphone version…although it’s been entertaining trying to figure out the APIs without access to the web for documentation!