From Voter Registration to Health Monitoring - Handheld Computers for Development - dot-ORG
In developing country contexts, handheld computer applications are starting to show their benefits across development sectors. Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and other types of handheld computers offer considerable advantages over desktops or even laptops. Handheld computers represent an intermediate tool with all the portability and mobility of the mobile phone and the added functionality of a small computer without the costs, size, weight and complexity of a full size computer. Health and microfinance have been particularly keen to test handheld applications, but there are opportunities being explored in natural resources management as well.
In the health sector, SATELLIFE has developed strong expertise, with experiences in a number of Asian and African countries and recently documented these experiences in a publication titled Handhelds for Health: SATELLIFEs Experiences in Africa and Asia".
In the microfinance sector, a number of organizations, particularly in Latin America, but also in India, have started using PDAs (see Personal Digital Assistants (PDA), CGAP IT Innovation Series). Specialized applications have been developed to track wildlife, such as CyberTracker, to monitor natural resources, and to facilitate the collection of data for scientific research, social surveys, population census, and market research. PDAs can be used for a wide range of data gathering tasks that involve field workers recording information away from the office. Applications have also been developed for use in emergency relief situations, to handle surveys and refugee registration. Depending on the data collection needs, GPS capability can be added to these handheld computers, allowing for automated calculation and recording of the users precise location.
dot-ORG Projects Using Handhelds
dot-ORG has implemented three pilot projects that involve three very different applications of PDAs; 1) to enhance health monitoring in Nepal, 2) to support democracy and voter registration in Rwanda, and 3) to strengthen the sustainability and improve the environmental impact of the marine aquarium trade in the Philippines.
1. Nepal Health Monitoring Pilot Project
Project Status: completed
Implementing Partners: dot-ORG, SATELLIFE, HealthNet, NTCA & NFHP
Project Description:The Nepal Health Monitoring Pilot Project involved two activities. In the first activity, SATELLIFE worked with the Nepali Technical Assistance Group (NTAG) to develop electronic forms for a biannual Vitamin A survey and to conduct part of the survey using handheld computers and Global Positioning System (GPS) units. In the second activity, SATELLIFE worked with the Nepal Family Health Program (NFHP) to use handheld computers to facilitate data collection by health workers conducting monthly monitoring, supervision and technical support provision to rural health clinics.
Results and Lessons:
2. Rwanda National Election Commission Voter Registration & Verification Project
Project Status: completed
Implementing Partners: dot-ORG, SATELLIFE, National Election Commission of Rwanda; CODE, Inc., Geekcorps.
Project Description: This pilot activity implemented by SATELLIFE in cooperation with the National Electoral Commission of Rwanda, involved replacing paper cards used to collect new voter registration data and update existing voter data by electronic forms on PDAs. The pilot included an intensive training component to ensure that the registration officers were capable of using PDAs. Before PDAs could be used, however, extensive work had to be done to build the voter registration database. In addition, NEC technical personnel were trained to create and update electronic forms, track form field to the back-end database and train PDA end-users.
Results and Lessons:
For more details, see the full final report for this sub-activity of the Rwanda project.
3. Using Information Technology for Identity Preservation and Traceability to Transform the Marine Aquarium Trade Philippines
Project Status: initial phase
Implementing Partner: Marine Aquarium Council
Within this project, the Marine Aquarium Council (MAC), a US-based non-profit organization, will create and implement an integrated, web-based information technology system to enhance identity preservation and traceability capacity within the Philippines marine aquarium trade.
The Marine Aquarium Council has been involved in the development of certification standards to ensure a more sustainable trade in aquarium fish. Effective use of information technology can play a major role in accelerating the transformation of the marine aquarium trade by improving identity preservation and traceability of the batches of fish and other marine organisms. Traceability involves 1) ensuring that organisms can be tracked from the certified collection area of their origin; 2) documenting movement in and out of a certified facility to the next; 3) recording and reporting mortality at each step of the chain of custody.
The PDA component of the IT system will enable collectors to capture and transmit data easily to the exporters. The PDA interface will be entirely picture-based and contain all data required for certification.
Advantages and Challenges of Handheld Computers
Handheld computers can be used in many different sectors to increase the efficiency of specific processes, such as:
This article draws from the final reports of the Rwanda and Nepal projects submitted by SATELLIFE (see links below).