A crash course in changing the world.
This is my post for LEARN 7 on Ushahidi. As you saw from the video clip, Ushahidi is a Kenyan social innovation which has now been "exported" to many countries across different types of crisis - I am extra proud to be Kenyan this week!!
As you may know from reading some of my posts, I work in the Health space and specifically in the area of eHealth. One of the projects I currently manage is a national eLearning programme for nurses in Kenya. This programme has been running for over 4 years now and has enrolled over 7000 nurses, 60% of whom work in rural communities across Kenya. The programme uses computers and mobile phones to upskill nurses to enable them manage new and re-emerging diseases including HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria.
Since early this year, we have been looking for possible ways to enable these nurses collect and report on disease outbreak and survaillance information in their regions for planning purposes. One of the options we are looking at is Ushahidi's Geographic information systems (GIS) software. Ushahidi uses an Open Source GIS software that is customizable to AMREFs requirements and can be synchronized with our SMS management system to enable us collect data using simple SMS systems. This is a key advantage as, whereas most (over 80%) of nurses do NOT have easy access to a internet-connected PC/laptop, ALL nurses on the programme have a phone ensuring near real-time feedback and minimal implementation costs. The fact that Ushahidi is "Made in Kenya" is also a major plus as we will be able to access a strong community of users and developers ready to share good practice.
I am totally excited about the possible synergies (1+1=11) that would accrue from intergrating GIS into this national eLearning programme. Available evidence show that the spread of information about a local outbreak can indeed reduce the impact of a disease outbreak. Moreover, if individuals react swiftly to a disease that itself does not spread too rapidly, aware individuals can form a protective cordon around the outbreak and subsequently bring it to complete stop. This kind of locally-initiated, informal spread of awareness may play an important role in containing an epidemic, even when no official guidelines have been issued. Totally awesome!