Lisa Smith

Weekly Roundup – 11-13-11: Technology’s Equalizing Impact

The need for health programs to be inclusive has been an active part of the development conversation for the last five to 10 years. But as Daniella Ballou-Aares, the founder of the Global Health Practice group at the strategic consulting firm Dalberg points out, the means to do so on a large-scale has been elusive.

Technology, however, has become the great equalizer, Ballou-Aares noted last month during a presentation hosted by the William Davidson Institute.

Ballou-Aares is a partner and regional director for the North and South American offices at Dalberg. She has extensive experience advising leaders in both public and private sectors on how to achieve sustained and measurable impact in development, working on prominent global health projects such as the Affordable Medicines Facility for malaria and the Pledge Guarantee for Health.

In her Global Impact Speech and her one-on-one interview with WDI’s Health Care Research Director Prashant Yadav (see video below), Ballou-Aares outlined ways to change the mindset of traditional business consulting work. In her work with partners in the public and private sector, Ballou-Aares shared that ongoing inclusively and engagement with invested stakeholders (particularly one’s customers), largely through the use of technology, is an important strategy for improved global health outcomes.

Ballou-Aares emphasized increased accountability and engagement with customers of health services and products as a focus of partnering. She recommended increased use of ongoing data collection – both quantitative and qualitative – to enable course corrections and appropriate redesign throughout implementation and scaling. She reflected that many working relationships have had insufficient accountability to ensure programs have met customer’s needs.

Ballou-Aares’ discussed how technology can improve efficient reporting and feedback, thereby improving the impact of global health programs. For instance, she shared how mobile phone-enabled information sharing and feedback can increase impact of malaria treatment programs. To facilitate demand for appropriate essential medicines, programs can more efficiently share marketing information on effective treatments for malaria with customers through voice or text messages. Likewise, on the supply-side of programs, mobile phones can improve contact between warehouses and local drug shops or pharmacies to improve the accuracy of orders and reduce the number of medication stock-outs.

During her Global Impact Speech, Ballou-Aares highlighted several organizations that are leading technological methods to improve accountability. Below are brief descriptions of each organization she mentioned, so that upon review, the NB community can continue the conversation on accountability and inclusivity as well as share other approaches.

HUDUMA/USHAHIDI: Huduma is a citizen initiative of SODNET in partnership with USHAHIDI. It is a demand-influencing model that aggregates concerns and observations of citizens through web and mobile-based platforms (SMS, voice, video etc.) and feeds this information back to authorities to address. The goal is to improve service delivery and keep those in positions of authority accountable.

USHAHIDI, as taken from their website, is a non-profit technology company that builds free and open source software for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping. They build tools for democratizing information, increasing transparency and lowering the barriers for individuals to share their stories.

SPROXIL/mPedigree: Sproxil is a venture-backed social enterprise that intervenes in the medicine counterfeit industry by connecting legitimate pharmaceutical companies directly to consumers through an improved tracking mechanism for medicines along the supply chain. Using scratch-off tags, Sproxil enables consumers to text message an item-unique code for a rapid response that confirms a brand’s genuineness.

Likewise, mPedigree emphasizes a similar service to consumers so that they may establish the legitimacy of their medicines through mPedigree’s mobile phone platform. Additionally, mPedigree works to develop partnerships between drug manufacturers, marketers, pharmacists and regulators and in doing so seeks to provide technological resources to facilitate intersections of their work.

M-PESA: M-PESA is a product that has been highlighted multiple times on NextBillion including a more recent guest post on their increasing organizational reach here.

M-PESA is a mobile phone-based electronic payment and value storing facility that has in just three years reached 57% of the Kenyan adult population. M-PESA customers complete more money transfers domestically than Western Union does globally, but making payments and storing value electronically are not that new; banks have been offering these services in Kenya for decades. M-PESA’s real innovation is that customers can deposit and withdraw cash at any of 20,000 stores.

ESOKO: Using mobile phones, Esoko provides individuals and businesses, primarily in the agriculture sector, the opportunity to share information quickly and affordably. Esoko provides a range of applications that both push updates out to the field, and, more importantly, pull data in from the field. Smallholder farmers become more active members of the larger agriculture market by more effectively tracking stock and inventory, identifying buyers and sellers, communicating with clients and other members of Esoko and reviewing data from the field.

Through knowledge transfer along the value chain, Esoko plays a vital role in how effectively agriculture markets operate.

Each of the aforementioned organizations contributes to the transmission of information through technology in uniquely applied ways. NextBillion, the William Davidson Institute and Dalberg are all groups actively engaging in this increasingly important intersection of development work. To include your experiences with accountability, engagement with customers and technology use, please comment below.

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Health Care, Social Enterprise, Technology
social enterprise, William Davidson Institute