mHealth Work Highlighted in the Times of India

During a recent field visit in India, the Times of India caught up with India Field Manager Lily Olson and Software Engineer Ben Rudolph to talk about Dimagi’s design methodology when building mobile applications. See the article here, or read the transcript below. 

NAGPUR: In villages nearby, it is a common scene for female health workers to show videos and pictures to new mothers, asking them various questions about the health of their children. The information that they gather are fed into their not-so-fancy phones and become a part of database managed by a research organization. They are also able to correct the mothers’ behaviour with regards to the nutritional and other needs of the kids.

This has been possible because of an open-source software developed by US-based organization Dimagi. A social enterprise that specializes in using technology to empower rural communities across the world, they currently serve in more than 40 developing countries being engaged in over 300 projects. Two members of the Dimagi team were in the city to work on improving the interface that they share with Lata Medical Research Foundation (LMRF).

A field manager who has been to villages in most developed countries, Lillian Olson has observed that in most of these countries there is much scope to improve the health care delivery in the villages. “Usually, the further one goes from an urban set-up, access to quality health care services becomes more difficult. India’s model of using rural women and training them as Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) is a promising one and can be replicated in many other places,” she said.

Having entered in India since 2007, Dimagi has been focused on partnering in projects related to maternal and child health. Over the years, they have expanded operations to be associated with projects related to tuberculosis, communicable diseases, HIV, and sectors like agriculture and education. “The cardinal principle that the organization works on is to enhance the public health sector in developing countries with the right technology,” Olson said.

Talking about the things to keep in mind while developing softwares and applications that would be used by people from varied cross sections, software engineer Ben Rudolph said, “We have to keep the basic user interface clean and simple. Aspects like imagery, words, description, information included in the software also depend on local languages, culture and folk beliefs. The high mobile penetration in countries like India has helped us achieve our targets.”

Some of the applications are for the use of doctors, others for ASHA workers. This means the end users themselves are widely apart from each other. These differences are also taken into consideration while designing softwares best suited to the need of the partner organization. “They are the ones to provide content and area expertise, we only provides technology in the best possible format for their use,” said Olson.



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