This week at the GRC

This week I’m at the Global Health Council’s conference in Washington D.C. IntraHealth (my employer) is working hard to promote our work in Capacity building and, especially, the work we’ve been doing in iHRIS and other projects with Open Source Software. Listening to great speakers like Hans Rosling of Gapminder.org is always fun and entertaining. Hans promotes a fact-based world in a way that challenges a lot of our assumptions about the world and isn’t afraid to kill sacred cows. “You should forbid the discussion of ‘HIV in Africa’” he said at one point after presenting data that showed the differences of infection rates across the continent. (I had a chance to meet Hans and talk to him about the iHRIS software when he came to IntraHealth’s event Wednesday night. He asked lots of great questions.) But it is often said that conferences are most useful for what happens in the hallways, not the main sessions. From the people I met during the conference, it made my time at the GHC36 much more valuble to me and, I hope, IntraHealth. Here are some of the more interesting people that I met at the conference:

  • Martin Namutso — Actually, I met Martin last year in Uganda when I helped him implement a new Knowledge Management portal for the Ministry of Health in Uganda. He works as an Open Source developer in Uganda, implementing Open Source solutions like iHRIS. It was good to catch up with him and talk about future prospects. I especially like the story Martin tells about his decision to focus on Linux and Open Source right out of school in order to compete for different jobs than most of his Microsoft-focused classmates.
  • Paul Biondich — Paul is one of the creators of OpenMRS. He’s a pediatrician and software developer bringing an Open Source EMR (Electronic Medical Records) system to low-income countries. When I mentioned that I had worked on a pilot project in which I created a PHP interface into the OpenMRS’s database schema, he asked for my help in maintaining the PHP interface to the OpenMRS API in any future work I do. I hadn’t found this when I was looking before, so I readily agreed. Working with OpenMRS’s API instead of the database directly would be a much more robust solution to building PHP applications that work with OpenMRS.
  • Jørn Klunsøyr — Jørn is a registered nurse and software developer at the University of Bergen where he works on mobile projects like EpiHandyMobile to make form submission with cell phones much easier. Using a web-based application, it is possible to build forms and push them to a low-power J2ME cell phones. Later, after the data has been gathered, the data is sent from the phone via SMS, GPRS, or BlueTooth to the EpiHandy server and, from there, to applications like Clinica and OpenMRS. When he demonstrated the software, I immediately saw applications for iHRIS: making it easy to fill in the iHRIS information in the field when a laptop and Internet access might not be available.
  • Eric Woods — Eric Woods is the Executive Director and Founder of Africa Aid. His org is helping distribute cell phones to doctors across Africa. While the phones are useful in and of themselves, he is looking for applications and partners that would make the phones that much more valuble for the doctors. One example he thought of was a cell phone directory. Making the contact information in iHRIS available to other doctors would make it possible for doctors to more easily consult with each other and develop relationships that they might not otherwise.

These are just a few of the people that stand out from those that I met. After talking to them, I can see ways that we could work together and I hope that before we meet at GHC next year, I will have worked with a few of them.

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