Combatting Medical shortages in Africa by mobile phone! #stockout
Perhaps Ben Marsh and his posse of developers can get involved and really make a worldwide difference? Simply the door has been opened and with a bit of hyper software development; the cyber anoracs will more than redeem themselves (well in my eyes anyway) and justly change this sorry battered world we live in where countless millions havea daily struggle to survive and still in 2010 have no access to clean potable water!
The piece by Oxfams Duncan Green, taking out the politics, really says it all and having read it you will understand the only downside is the main shortage of drugs seems to be in the Capital of Uganda, Kampala where I spent a blissful couple of years back in the mid 1960's - before Amin came to power and butchered many of my friends, I left behind in that once ideallic country.
The Ugandan Asians (imported four generations earlier, by the British colonial rulers to build the East African Railway) obviously were still resident and basically running the country whilst not to their credit, remitting countless millions of hard currency back to the wider family in India, the (Indian) Bank of Baroda had a huge branch right next to the newly created Bank of Uganda. No contest!
@CharlieBeckett on Twitter
Do you think this stuff works?: Using mobile phones to combat medicine shortages in Africa by Oxfam's Duncan Green
Using mobile phones to combat medicine shortages in Africa [ January 4th, 2010 ]
Most of the coverage (and hype) around mobile phones and development is based on their potential to improve access to markets for small farmers, especially those in remote areas. But mobiles, which are rapidly becoming ubiquitous in most poor countries (like a kind of technological Coca Cola), have some real possibilities for those campaigning on access to essential services such as healthcare, according to an article by Ken Banks.
The “Stop Stock-Outs” campaign is based around a little-known, but devastating, problem. Medicine stock-outs — where local clinics and pharmacies run out of high-demand, crucial medicines — are a potentially lethal problem in a number of African countries, yet governments insist they don’t occur. The team behind the project set out to find a solution and asked themselves, ”What could be more powerful than a map which contradicts these government claims?”
Last year, activists in Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Zambia started surveying clinics in their respective countries, checking stock levels of essential medicines. These included first-line antimalarials, zinc tablets, penicillin, first-line anti-retrovirals (ARVs) for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, and diarrhoea medication. Each of these medicines is widely used in the four countries.
After visiting clinics and pharmacies, activists reported their results using their mobile phones through structured, coded text messages (SMS) – “x,y,z” – where the first number represented their country code (Kenya, Malawi, Uganda or Zambia), the second their district or city, and the third the medicine which they found to be out of stock.
The messages were then visually displayed on an online map, showing specific reports by location and building up “hot spots” of activity. In the case of the “Stop Stock-Outs” campaign, the bigger the hotspot the greater the number of stock-outs, and the greater the problem in that area.Within the first week alone, the team collected reports of 250 stock-outs of essential medicines in their four target countries.
Because incoming data automatically populates the map, it represents an almost real-time picture of stock-outs.
After a successful launch and a week piloting the service, the “stock-out SMS number” has been distributed to medicine users throughout each country so that anyone with a mobile phone can send in a stock-out report. However, unlike reports from official, known data collectors, these messages will firstly be checked by staff at Health Action International before being posted up on the map. Then the government can’t deny it’s happening and the public pressure can really start.
Julian Bray comments:
So concludes Duncan Greens article but I really think he is missing the point here. If overseas aid and other forms of arms length support, was tied in to positive results as proven by this form of mapping, not just drugs but all aspects where financial aid is supposed to be applied, not only would it demonstrate value for money in the distribution of resources but could also be applied to say confidential reporting of the location of Taliban hostiles, potential aircraft bomb threats, lax airport security, domestic violence, crap social services, battered and abused children and so on.
Keying in results to the provision of resources will effectively revitalise the black art of financial Overseas Aid support and support services generally. Just imagine if Duncan and Ben had got togther and created a whistleblowing mapping application for the Banksters? Gordon Brown instead of looking like a candidate for Gods waiting room, would still have an extra £170 billion in the kitty and at least a possible chance of winning the upcoming General Election... but that apart a worldwide collaboration applied to a variety of pressing matters could well ensure IMPORTANT LIFE THREATENING issues are fully reported and publicly outed before they reach a critical stage or corrupt managers, ministers, banksters and so on, are able to errect smokescreens, hide duckhouses, or brief against the subject under review.
All that remains is to wish you and your family, a very Happy New Year and at least something very positive has finally been revealed during the lacklustre 2009! I no longer feel the need to write the annual review this to my mind is far more important Ben Marsh and Co the ball is very much in your court... get tapping on your Amstrads, no time to lose! Even a hashtag #stockout on twitter. The possibilities are endless..
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