donderdag 9 december 2010

Reflections on the CCLE Livelihoods in Tema Ghana

I had heard a lot about CCLEs from colleagues and last year I had a brief participation in the CCLE Gender in The Hague last year, but now I would actually be part of a CCLE from the start. Denise, Annemiek and Ibrahim from GINKS had spent already a lot of time in the preparation of the event. The Visas were a nightmare especially for the South American participants. Participants changed, flight schedule even the location changed during the preparation. But on the 27th November Denise and me flew to Ghana. On Sunday we managed to meet Eddie, the co-facilitator. He had been out of town so we could not discuss the programme and facilitation earlier. Late afternoon we travelled from our Accra Hotel to our CCLE hotel in Tema. We had time to discuss with the translators, who were setting up their boots. It was a tri-lingual event with simultaneous translation for all participants. One by one the participants arrived from Bolivia, Uganda, Zambia, Ecuador, Mali, Burkina Faso and from the Northern part of Ghana. Communicating with the people from Burkina, who travelled in a noisy bus, was difficult because both Denise and me don’t speak very much French. But they managed to arrive. On Monday morning we were all there but one. Cecilia from Ecuador had a day delay with her plain. The translation at first was tough to follow. You have to get used to the voices, you miss the emotion in the voice and have to concentrate more, but you get used to it and the added value that everyone could speak in their own language (although several spoke local languages as well) was good.

The first day was a day of introduction of the people and their projects. We learned about the meaning of each others name, about their personal stories of the impact of ICT on their work and how they were selling the one thing that everyone should know about their project. Clear was that many people were not really used to this elevator pitch and talked much longer about their project!

Day 2 we were digging deeper with a special session on market price information platforms with a special guest, Bernard, from Esoko. But mainly also the experiences of SEND Foundation (Ghana) and Prefectura Santa Cruz (Bolivia). Eddie our facilitator energized us after lunch with an impressive dry football exercise. The afternoon was much appreciated by the participants. AOPEB (Bolivia), Coprakazan (Mali) and NAIS (Zambia) presented their case to the three different language groups. I facilitated the Coprakazan and it was interesting to observe the difference between the French language participants, English and Spanish. They all had very valuable questions and recommendation, but a different approach.

Day 3 we reflected on key lessons in 5 years Livelihoods programmes. First at individual level and after that on Country level. All countries could present their findings. Some key quotes from that sessions: “Radio is a major tool to disseminate information in rural areas of Bolivia”, “In Burkina Faso sms is the most important tool to reach out to more farmers”. From Ghana they mentioned “High illiteracy rates under farmers is a major challenge for the fast development of the agricultural sector”. For Mali a major breakthrough was “the demystification of ICT has achieved in Mali that farmers are not afraid anymore for computers, this made it easier to disseminate information”. For Zambia an important lesson from the last five years was that “Linkages between research – extension and farmers in the agricultural sector made agricultural practices more visible in Zambia”. The common factor between most of our projects is according to Uganda “The effective dissemination of information to farmers”. The closing afternoon focused on networking and knowledge sharing on local and international level. Denise showed the new i-Connect Online platform and encouraged everyone to share their stories and blogs in the Livelihood group.

The last evening we had a stunning dance performance from a Ghanaian Dance group. The whole group did an attempt to dance as well. It was directly clear why all the dancers had a nice six pack, because it was hard work and a very high tempo. After the dance I left the group to go to Accra already, because I had a mHealth seminar the next morning and the traffic jam from Tema to Accra is huge. I really enjoyed the three day CCLE and looking forward to see everyone online.

dinsdag 7 december 2010

Impression of mHealth Africa Summit

mHealth Africa Summit
1st and 2nd December 2010 in Accra, Ghana

With reported mobile subscriptions to be over 379 million, Africa is home to one of the fastest growing mobile markets in the world. Over half of the population in African countries (roughly 70% in Ghana) uses mobile phones. At mHealth Africa Summit around 80 professionals from the mobile industry, health care professionals, Government officials, academia and NGO professionals came together to discuss the potential and the challenges of the role of mobile devices in health delivery. But the real innovators on the ground the health care workers in the field who invent new ways of using the mobile phone were not invited.

After the key note speaker, the HE prof Peter Anyang Nyong ‘o, the Minister of medical Services of Kenya spoke about the future of mHealth the conference started during the day with several interactive panels. The presenters had each a few minutes to present the key issues and after a Q&A session you had more time to speak with them during the breaks. This way you had a quick overview of what is going on in Africa at the moment. My focus was mainly on projects that are on the ground in the countries that we work like MOTECH (mobile technology for community health) in Ghana , a collaboration between the Ghana Health Service, the Grameen foundation, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health that is working to determine how best to use mobile phones to increase the quality and quantity of antenatal and neonatal care in rural Ghana. This could be of interest for SEND Foundation and NAIS, because the use a mobile midwife application for pregnant women with audio messages in local language. They also have a mobile application for nurses with a $40 mobile phone including a patient information systems and sms reminders to patients for reminders of appointments for immunisation of their children. The nurses can see who missed these appointments on their mobile phones. At the end of the month a report is automatically created, which saved a lot of time for the participating nurses.

Management Science for Health (MSH) Director Piers Bocock gave some interesting examples about Malawi especially the Knowledge for Health (K4H) project that focuses on the dissemination of quality information and the connection of Community Health workers at district hospitals. The K4Health mHealth toolkit was also of interest as a good resource on mHealth and what role it can play in reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, Malaria and health data collection.

A third presentation of interest was from Dr Thomas Brennan of Oxford University about mobile medical devices that could be linked to a mobile telephone like a mobile stethoscope that can measure remote heart sound.

What was missing in the conference was an exhibition to see some of the developed projects. The time to present was short in order to show many different pilot projects. Most struggled in their efforts to scale up. This was one of the key discussions of the conference. How to scale up without loosing local ownership and a bottom up approach is difficult with culture as an important factor both in terms of acceptance and attitude towards change. Much efforts are also needed for Policy developments and to implement a business model that makes it sustainable. Open Standards, Government support (en not control) and further deregulation are key for further upscaling to create more impact. With a big hope for the access to glass fibre to make mobile internet better affordable, reliable. The Ghana Health Service is now building their own network to public health facilities in Ghana although maintenance is outsourced to a private contractor. In Kenya the Government also has developed their eHealth / mHealth strategy and are connecting all hospitals to glass fibre. Financial support in this is necessary but available in funds like the Africa Health Fund. Cultural and Policy changes have a higher priority.