World Bank Day @ mHealth Summit – Part 5

Notes from the eDevelopment Thematic Group event World Bank Day @ mHealth Summit – mHealth from policy to implementation.


Session 5: Showcasing mHealth Applications

This session will spotlight several mHealth applications that are being piloted and implemented. The panelists will provide demonstrations of their respective applications, provide an overview of why the applications were created and the direct impact in l countries where the technology has been introduced.

Co-Chairs: Armin Fidler, Advisor, Health, Nutrition and Population, World Bank

We always need to be aware of unintended consequences

  • We should learn from our failures


Eric Rasmussen, CEO, INSTEDD

mHealth system interoperability is a critical task

we looked at the gaps – and how can we fill them with FOSS

  • GeoChat – SMS based, geotagging, mapping system, very successful
  • Mesh4x – synchronizing different tools to share information
  • Riff – collaborative decision support, cognitive analysis, sending messages when a problem appears
  • Innovation Lab – teaching people everything that we know to make it their own and make it sustainablee, we use all other tools we find useful as well


Pamela Johnson, Co-Founder and Chief Health Officer, Voxiva

This is where everything started, thank you to the World Bank and Infodev to have been there from the beginning

Since 2001 we wokred on mHealth innovations around the world

  • first pilot on Peru – increased to a country-based system and was adapted in other countries
  • we learn from the developing world about things we want to deploy in the US

Project in 2009 – Mexico, flu and diabetes system

We looked in mobile phones because we were interested in scale

Lessons learned:

1- It’s not just about technology

  • it’s about health, mobiles are only tools for health
  • it’s about people
  • our approach – we look at services which can use different technology, depending on different needs
  • If you want to scale, you have to meet people where they are

2- Different technologies are for different things

3- Change is a constant

  • the future will be different for sure

4- The regulatory requirement is really important

How to scale?

  • It’s about people
  • Avoid stovepipes – overkill of systems, devices, … may not be an improvement, standards are substantial
  • Plan for sustainability – total cost of ownership: discuss who will take the responsibility for every sector of a project


Josh Nesbit, Executive Director, Frontline SMS

Story how FrontlineSMS:Medic was developed

Internship in a rural hospital in Malawi

  • Community health workers were disconnected from the hospital
  • Trying to use FrontlineSMS for this purpose
  • Training health workers how to use text messages


  • Patient care – became digital and much more efficient
  • Logistics – partially automatized
  • Community workers – became connected

Taking this forward – introducing the FrontlineSMS:Medic tool all around the world

New project: FrontlineForms

Linking with OpenMRS and Ushahidi


  • focus on the end users and do programs their way
  • low cost, available tools
  • innovate on expressed needs


Erica Kochi, Co-Lead Innovation Group UNICEF

We work directly with governments, giving them policy advice

Today: talking about RapidSMS

  • open source framework to build SMS-based systems
  • built on exisitng practices in the health system
  • UNICEF will use it in 23 countries next year

Story starts in Ethiopia

  • monitored distribution of food via RapidSMS – SMS data collection, online visualization
  • cutting down the time needed for health workers

Other application in Malawi

  • real time government information

Motivation for workers:

  • sending symptoms and response SMS with diagnosis

Nigeria – Roll Back Malaria

Lessons learned:

  • scale as a constraint
  • partnerships are important
  • utility for end users
  • reinforce existing communication channels
  • people have to find it useful
  • build a local tech community

If you don’t use your data for action – it’s basically worthless


Hajo van Beijma, co-Founder of Text to Change

mHealth in developing countries

  • 5% is software, 95% is programs
  • It’s about impact
  • Challenges – we work with problems all day
  • Scalability
  • Focusing on the end user – what works?

We work with partnerships

  • governments
  • local NGOs

Key points:

  • We believe in African software – strengthening the economy
  • Look at the demands of local organisations & look at local content
  • Interactive projects
  • Create awareness
  • Local languages
  • Local content

Demand driving with new incentives – social incentives

Strengthening companies will help the mHealth movement in the end

Open source eveything – we are not there yet

Scaling is important – we are working on it


Commentator: Arleen Cannata Seed, Senior e-Government Specialist, CITPO, World Bank

A lot of projects have been recently developed so there is no evidence on impact yet

Some of the results can be attributed to the link between mobile phones and changing of behaviour

Mobile phone has great attibutes – which can influence behaviour as much as no other thing recently

We must stay vigilant with this technology

We have to make use of technology as it evolves


Q & A session

How are all these different programs working together?

What are important technology trends aside SMS – it’s pretty old?

How do we foster collaboration between those multiple initiatives?

Open source and open standards?

How to scale up pilot projects?


Pamela Johnson:

  • Integration of technology? We are working with other organisation which are active in the country – integrating services
  • When is the right time for creating policies?

Hajo van Beijma:

  • There is collaboration – e.g. Open mobile consortium

Josh Nesbit:

  • We are trying to find rallying points to collaborate with systems in the same sector

Eric Rasmussen:

  • Next technology? Utilization of new technology is increasing very fast – mCommerce will come soon; development of sensors – using mobile phone as platform for laboratory diagnosis
  • It is difficult to see how hard it is to collaborate – because of the grant-making mechanism, which makes us all natural opponents

Erica Kochi:

  • mHealth is not going to fix a broken health system
  • Collaborate with the users on the ground

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World Bank Day @ mHealth Summit – Part 5
was published on 28.10.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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