Crowdsourcing Feedback to Improve Healthcare Systems

Co-authored by: Yvonne Nkrumah and Julia Mensah (WBIHS)


“Technology made large populations possible; large populations now make technology indispensable”

These words by renowned American writer, Joseph Wood Krutch, are true today as they were more than 40 years ago. From communities in Bangalore, India to Soroti, Uganda, citizens—even in rural communities—are leveraging the power of technology to provide critical information on service delivery, an essential input for reform.

In August 2013, the World Bank Group partnered with UNICEF Uganda and the Medicines Transparency Alliance (Uganda), to leverage two platforms – U-report (http://ureport.ug/) and mTrac (http://www.mtrac.ug). The use of these SMS-based platforms helped generate real-time information from both citizens and health providers, providing critical evidence on service delivery.

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UN’s first data analysis lab in Africa — the innovations lab you didn’t know about

UN’s Kampala based  pulse lab is preparing to kick start intensive data analyses at the fully fledged innovations laboratory in Kampala, Uganda — the first of it’s kind in Africa.

A Global Pulse team has worked in Kampala since the beginning of 2011 to foster partnerships between government, the United Nations and private sector, to understand information gaps and national priorities, identify potentially valuable data sources, and develop a strategic plan for solving local problems.

There are three big data UN sponsored labs all over the world. These labs  are subsidiaries of UN’s Global pulse labs network and they include the Pulse labs in New York, Jakarta and recently in Kampala.

The growing need to formulate data driven decisions has brought about creation of initiatives to mine data within the local areas affected. Besides the pulse lab in Kampala, there are also other initiatives by some collaboration and innovation spaces such as the iHUB and Outbox’s research wings which are geared at sharing stories about the vibrant East African technology community by conducting ICT research on technology innovation within the community.

The Kampala Pulse Lab is supported by the National Planning Authority (NPA) of the Ugandan Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development; the Ugandan Bureau of Statistics; the UN Resident Coordinator; and Makerere University among others. The Lab will build on UNICEF’s work in Uganda on technology innovation and mobile phones for rapid data collection and analysis.

Image via Global Pulse lab

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What you missed at the Swedish Ugandan ICT conference 2014

It was a data affair at the subtly lit Serena Katonga conference hall in Kampala on Tuesday 28th January 2014.

Right from the opening remarks by the Swedish ambassadors, their excellencies Mr. Urban Andersson and  Mr. Jonas Hafstom and also the key note speech by the minister of ICT in Uganda Hon. John Nasasira.

The most important thing was the impressive line of presentations that told stories behind the data provided. Otherwise, it would have seemed like a data crunching contest amongst whiz kids on a conquest to invent a new language –mathese!

The conference, an initiative by the the Swedish Ministry of foreign affairs and Business Sweden introduced a number of Swedish entrepreneurs to the Uganda market as well as partnering companies for example Ericsson, EKN and Flexenclosure. On the Ugandan side UCC and NITA(U) represented regulating bodies while telcos like MTN Uganda graced the event too.

Sub Saharan Africa is the fastest growing mobile market in the world

In his presentation about Building a networked society in Africa, Mr. Fredrick Jejdling, Head Ericsson Sub Saharan Africa shared some key insights about the market –more than 50 billion connected devices by 2020 and increase of mobile subscriptions from 476 million in 2013 to 1 billion by 2019.

He explained this as Ericsson’s vision to be part of the networked society especially through mobility, broadband and cloud.

This was rhetoric of Sweden’s SymbiocityICT vision by 2020 and Uganda’s Vision 2040. This is a clear indication that in Africa, it is no longer a mobile first approach but rather a mobile only approach.

The relationship between coffee and innovation busted

Swedes drink lots of coffee and coincidentally majority of the most innovative minds drink it in abundance too, in fact they abuse it. Now, it doesn’t come as surprise that Sweden is ranked 2nd as the most innovative country in the world. Also, it is ranked 2nd on  world wide coffee consumption ladder.

Ironically, Uganda is one of the leading producers of  coffee but is waning on innovation. It is ranked 22nd in Africa and 130th in the wold when it comes to internet connectivity. The key question is whether we’re consuming as much to keep awake as we innovate? Or we just treat coffee and innovation separately. Maybe.

Sweden’s position as an ICT leader (and coffee consumer) set pace for further discussions that were to be held later in the day. The agenda was about potential partnerships in various innovative scopes.

Mobile is driving growth in Africa

Mobile money, by far, is Africa’s greatest ICT innovation because it addresses a local monetary transaction need as well as having received widespread growth and massive adoption. For example in Kenya; over 70% of the unbanked populace now has access to financial services, the GDP has grown by over 5% among other benefits.
To fuel innovations as these, strategic policy making and incentives ought to be in place.

Nevertheless, the SMS platform plays a vital role in communication in Africa.  A UNICEF led project –UReport– that promotes e-governance and citizen journalism through a platform where issues of national interest are reported on an anonymous basis. This was aimed at demonstrating the vitality of innovating in ICT in building e-governance platforms.

Save for the amazing delicacies served at the networking food and coffee breaks, at the end of the day, the public and private sectors got to learn a whole lot more about each other.

Now, that’s an open market condition. That, my friend, is business.

Image via Business Sweden

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BPO in Uganda: The race to become the next India in Africa

TechPost caught up with  Rogers Karebi, secretary of the Uganda BPO Association as well as the MD of Dial-a-service, a BPO company in Uganda to discuss the current climate for BPO in East Africa and the potential for growth in the region.

BPO(Business Process Outsourcing) involves relocating business processes that a company usually performs in-house to a third-party service provider, such as a customer care or call center, to carry out on behalf of the company. The BPO industry’s focus sectors include financial services, insurance and telecommunications, with outsourced processes including after-sales services, data capture and conversion, accounting, benefits administration, human resource functions, and website design and development.

Business process outsourcing (BPO) and offshoring is a major global trend and the industry, worth an estimated US$130-billion a year, has an expected annual growth rate of about 50% for the next five years. As such, East Africa specifically Uganda, has in recent times strategically set itself up as a BPO hub of choice by beefing up its IT infrastructure, putting significant investment in human capital and infrastructural development. Using a combination of twitter conversations and our on-premise interview with Rogers, here’s how Uganda is poised (or not poised) to be the next BPO destination in the world.

Why Uganda is poised to be the next BPO destination

TechPost: Why do you think that Uganda has the potential to become a global BPO player?

Karebi: Unemployment is still a problem even among the educated youths in Kampala, and there are many opportunities to fill positions by educated workers with excellent English skills. So since our graduates are proficient in English whose accents are neutral (which means agents can be understood by clients in the west), communication is not an issue. A big pool of unemployed graduates means a huge human resource pool. Thirdly, we’ve a time zone advantage. This means while the Americans for instance are asleep, we’re awake working and vice-versa.  Great government support and political stability are a huge bonus for BPO.

@oquidave There is enough #BPO business to go around, esp. nearshore and onshore. Can #Uganda businesses compete & deliver the value? — Stephen S. Musoke (@ssmusoke) January 30, 2014

Kaberi: NITA-U has worked with Makerere University to train 500 youths in MPO skills, and plans are underway to train 3,000 in the next year to ensure a critical mass of BPO trained skills in Uganda. We’re also partnering with India which has several years of experience in the industry. As a matter of fact, we’re signing a Memorandum of Understanding with NASSCOM — a BPO association in India to create capacity building locally.

The challenges of BPO industry in Uganda

 

TechPost: It is obvious that we’ve not yet seen a huge boom in the BPO sector quite yet. Tell us, what’s still holding us back from tapping into this $130 billion Industry.

Karebi: We’re still struggling with infrastructure — and by this i mean affordable internet broadband and power or electricity. These do not place us at the same level ground as our Indian counterparts who have all these enablers cheaply. For instance, 1Mbps data connection costs about $600 here in Uganda while in India, it’s merely $50! With these unequal variables, you simply can’t compete. The other challenges have to do with policy and regulation. Specially, we still have weak cyber, data and privacy protection laws that are still being developed. International clients need the assurance that the data they’re outsourcing is fully protected under law otherwise they simply can’t give you business.

The local BPO climate

 

TechPost: When we talk about BPO, offshore clients always come to mind. BPO has been widely (mis) understood to be handling calls or data entry for big American corporations. Have you approached local clients? What has been their response to business process outsourcing so far?

Karebi: Actually the response has been quite promising. Currently as dial-a-service, we handle up to 6 clients which include Pepsi, UMEME, Jubilee among others while our competitors like Tecno Brain handle UNICEF child helpline. BPO is still not known among local companies and that could be attributed to poor marketing. We’ve not done a good job in sensitizing local firms on the advantages of BPO quite well. However, we indeed on holding sensitization workshops that will seek to enlighten prospective local clients on the benefits of BPO. We also have a BPO association which is the umbrella body for all the members.

@oquidave 4 low cost call center & data entry type #BPO not 4 higher paying law, software dev, health @jmakumbi @ugBPO @rkarebi @niyimic — Stephen S. Musoke (@ssmusoke) January 30, 2014

Kaberi: There’s what is called Knowledge Process Outsourcing(KPO). This is a higher level of outsourcing than the entry-level processing which includes data entry and answering calls. Such individuals with professional skills could actually delve into KPO.

@oquidave We should KILL the idea that you need to setup in kampala. @niyimic @StoneAtwine @ssmusoke @ugBPO @rkarebi — James S K Makumbi (@jmakumbi) January 30, 2014

Karebi: There’s a BPO company called SINFA that has a BPO center in Gulu, northern Uganda.

Government and BPO

 

TechPost: South Africa is known to have one of the most successful BPO destination due to government support.  However, At this time, Uganda is not attractive for investment from global outsourcers, due to the lack of tax incentives and limited infrastructure. What is the Government of Uganda doing to fuel the emerging BPO sector?

Karebi: The Government has setup a BPO incubation centre located at Statistics house where we’re currently located. Power and fast Internet is provided for for free for the residing BPO companies until a specific period where these companies graduate of the incubation centre together with another BPO provider. The government, through NITA-U is developing guidelines for the provision of Government incentives to BPO operators, drafting the national BPO strategy and roadmap for Uganda.

@oquidave @rkarebi @niyimic @BrianNdyaguma @jmakumbi @ssmusoke @ctford What attributes do we need to be the preferred BPO provider? — Daniel M. Mumbere (@danmumbere) January 30, 2014

Karebi: As a country, to succeed a BPO destination, we need; Government support, political stability and ability to offer high quality service. As a company, professionalism, high quality service delivery and well-trained personnel.

Image:  Rogers Karebi, secretary of the Uganda BPO Association as well as the MD of Dial-a-service

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eLearning Africa 2014 Kampala Uganda Call for Proposals

A Student in one of the Computer Labs, Block B, College of Computing and Informatino Sciences (CoCIS), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda

ELearning Africa Conference will be held in Uganda next year. As the practice has been in the past 8 years universities in countries where this prestigious conference is held participate immensely through presenting papers, workshops and exhibitions. We are lucky that next year it is taking place in Uganda. The call for proposals is open. All are therefore welcome to submit their proposals. See call below.

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Mobile Innovation from the field: We can now talk directly with students, teachers and parents in Uganda

This blog on a new user case of U-Report for targeted beneficiery feedback in Uganda was authored by Kidus Fisaha Asfaw with contributions from Merrick Schaeffer and Lyudmila Bujoreanu

Inspired by the success of using U-report to map and mitigate the spread of Banana Bacterial Wilt disease in Uganda’s banana crops, the World Bank team from the ICT unit (TWICT) decided take U-report’s functionality a step further by establishing an on-going dialogue with students, parents and teachers, who are direct beneficiaries of the Uganda Post Primary Education and Training Project (UPPET) project.

By tapping into Uganda’s network of over 236,000 U-reporters built by UNICEF, a joint ICT/UPPET team was able to identify and poll over 5,000 teachers, students, and parents associated with school supported by UPPET.  Throughout the summer, we have engaged these “special school reporters” in a series of mobile based SMS polls structured around their experiences with the use of the new textbooks and science kits supplied by the project. The responses from beneficiaries are providing useful insights from the field that are expected to improve the ongoing UPPET operation and provide useful inputs to the client in improving the utilization of learning resources in schools.

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