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The following blog post was originally posted by Dimagi partner and CommCare user ColaLife. You can see the original blog post here. This is the second blog that ColaLife has written about using CommCare. Their first blog about deploying CommCare can be found here. 

From the very beginning of the ColaLife Operational Trial in Zambia (COTZ), field staff of Keepers Zambia Foundation (KZF) have been visiting the retailers they’ve trained to provide them with post-training support. If they can’t visit them, they follow-up by phone. All retailers have a phone and most (but not all) will be in areas with mobile phone coverage.

During these visits, field staff check, amongst other things, stock levels of Kit Yamoyo, check that the product is displayed well – off the ground and in a place where customers can see it – and check that a Kit Yamoyo sign is displayed outside the shop. Although these follow-up visits helped ensure the retailers remained engaged and ironed out any problems the retailer may be facing, it was impossible to collate the information gathered. But that has now changed.

In mid-May-14 we started to deploy Android tablets running Dimagi’s CommCare application. With a minimal amount of support from Dimagi (small implementations of CommCare are free), we tailored the application to follow the normal visit process but captured the data on the tablets. The tablets work offline but when linked to the internet, either through WiFi or through a SIM, the data stored on them is uploaded to an internet-based server. While uploading the data collected, the retailer list is synchronised so that all tablets use the same list of retailers. The tablets have GPS chips in them and so we are also able to collect the coordinates of the retailers.

The data collected includes:

  1. Retailer details: name, gender, contact details, shop type (grocery store or drug store), location (latitude/longitude), nearest health centre and more.
  2. Visit information: date/time of visit, whether the person staffing the shop has been trained, the presence of the training cards, wholesaler being used, sales, retail price, wholesale price, stock levels, whether the Kit Yamoyo sign is displayed outside the shop, whether the product is displayed well and follow-up actions needed.
  3. Metadata: name of the fieldworker and their activity level.

Although the visit form takes less than 2 minutes to complete, a mass of unique information is collected which is invaluable for the effective management of the supply chain. Nobody else has this retailer location information, for example, and in a vast country where people rely on the informal market, this is ‘gold dust’. So far 173 retailers have been trained in Eastern Province and we know the GPS coordinates of 168 of them. Here they are displayed on Google Earth:

Eastern Province Retailers - all

That’s the Malawi border to the east and the Mozambique border to the south. The three letters at the beginning of each retailer’s code indicates the district: PET=Petauke; SID=Sinda; KAT and KTT= Katete; CHP=Chipata; and VUB=Vubwi. Zooming in gives a clearer picture:

Eastern Province Retailers - zoom

I am a bit of an IT Geek (so I’m told) but rarely does IT deliver to my expectations. I’ve come across 2 exceptions to this in my life so far: the iPhone and CommCare. I cannot recommend CommCare too highly. It does a pretty complex task very, very effectively. It is easy to train field staff, management staff are able to see the data collected from anywhere and I am able to update the data collection forms and deploy them to the tablets wherever there is an internet connection – I’ve been doing most of it from the UK. I wish to thank the Dimagi staff, in particular Mofya and Nick, for their encouragement and support.

At the moment however, we are having to do the data analysis manually and we have some work to do to automate this.Untitled