Sunday, July 18, 2010

Creating a Network

“Things will change when you get to India”. This was echoed throughout the pre-departure planning stages for our project. We had a very clear understanding of our purpose for this project: resolve the technical issues and expand the software into other NGO’s, but we went in knowing that these objectives could change dramatically.

Now having spent over a month in India, we are fortunate in that our project has not deviated greatly from the proposal we began with. The NGO’s that are working with us are extremely organized and have realistic goals and expectations that were communicated clearly and promptly from the beginning. Despite the pre-departure planning, there have been many challenges that we did not anticipate. Specifically, the length of time needed to resolve the technical issues that these NGO’s are facing, the technical knowledge needed to implement the program, and the identification of possible expansion opportunities for the software have proven to be the biggest challenges.

However, we have been able to take a step back from the urge to focus solely on fixing the technical issues and analyze the most efficient growth for the SMSFrontline software. After meeting with multiple stakeholders working with the HIV/AIDS community, we have identified a need to expand the program and create a more efficient network to connect all the stakeholders that are currently using the SMSFrontline software. A centralized database would allow the NGO’s we are working with to share their data to create a more automated and structured tracking, referral and follow up system. In order to create this database, we have enlisted the help of various sources- LEAD students from BVB College, a software engineer and, our own teammate, Kailash! We are hopeful that this database will streamline the data flow currently being implemented and improve the overall data sharing between the NGO’s. So what do we envision? We hope that a specific NGO can refer a patient to register for a support group via SMS, and the support group will receive a message regarding the referral. If the patient attends the support group, the support group can then send a SMS message back to the referring NGO to confirm the registration of the patient. All of these messages would go through the central database and a history of the patient will begin to accumulate. With such limited resources, the NGO’s can benefit greatly from this system and will allow the NGO’s to spend more time working directly with the community members.

Because our program involves numerous stakeholders, there are many people we consider “champions”. Among the top “champions” is Venkatesh, our KHPT advocate, whose passion has allowed our software to be implemented seamlessly into key NGO’s. In addition, Joshi from BCT, who has a wealth of knowledge regarding SMSFrontline software and is eager to see the software become successful, and most importantly, we have our team of technical gurus- the LEAD students and Jaya, a software engineer who have been tirelessly working on debugging many issues within the current software. We have assumed the role of the facilitator for this project, and without the dedication of these various “champions”, we definitely would not be able to complete our project.

We still have much to do, but we definitely think that we can accomplish a great deal by remaining flexible and adapting to the needs of our NGO’s.