TechNet-21 - Forum

This forum provides a place for members to ask questions, share experiences, coordinate activities, and discuss recent developments in immunization.
  1. James Cheyne
  2. Programme management
  3. Wednesday, 03 June 2015

During the TechNet consultation in Bangkok ten innovation projects that were given special prominence.All the projects are truly impressive in their scope, attention to detail and focused on collecting better data for supply chain management.

  • Two are for system-wide supply chain modelling to help the ministries build more efficient distribution systems and make long term plans for the predicted the impact of new vaccines, new packaging and potentially new temperature requirements.
  • Six are about collecting and sharing data for better supply chain management
  • And two are to help programme data to be shared, one within a country and the other for sharing data internationally.

All these projects deserve to be supported to either succeed or to fail; the successful ones will improve the immunizations service, the failures will be a useful source of information on how to do better next time.​I am however struck by the fact that these projects hardly say a word about supporting the people who will be asked to use these new technologies. These people are among the lowest-paid in the immunization service and who also work in the toughest conditions. High quality hardware and software need to be matched with high quality wetware: the people.

A proposal:

The organizers of the next Innovation Café should aim to have an equal number of innovative projects to support health workers to use the technology solutions. What do you think?

In the meantime, some suggestions for human resource managers: HR managers have the skills to improve recruitment,training and development,performance appraisal, and pay and benefit systems for the employees and volunteers in the health services.

  • Lobby the technology developers so that the data compiled at the health centre is immediately useful to those who collect it. When a health worker reports a refrigerator that is outside the correct temperature range, s/he doesn’t need to have that information fed back a few days later – s/he already knows. S/he needs to know what to do about it.
  • Work on new ways to assess reasonable salaries for supply chain and health centre workers. Think about ‘full benefits packages’ that not only include the pay rate but also other benefits that add status such as uniforms, paid time off, recognition for good performance, etc.
  • Find new ways to reimburse expenses paid by health workers to allow them to do their work well for example, buying ice in the local market. Cell phone credits may have a role here.
  • Develop new briefing and training methods so that courses focus on what the staff need to know and not repeat what they already know, or promote procedures that are not possible in practice.
  • Find a way to productively listen to individual health workers’ needs, thoughts, challenges and their ideas to solve them – and help solve them.
  • Focus on finding new ways to select the right person for a job based on previous high performance rather than academic qualifications – although degrees are important too, of course.

What are your ideas for solving the highest priority challenges to ensure that the staff in the supply chain are highly skilled and highly motivated?

One last point: while technologies are mostly developed in the North many of the best adapted applications of these technologies have been developed in the South. Mobile money is a good example that has transformed banking in Kenya while it remains in its infancy in the US and the EU.

Do you have any ideas to stimulate African solutions for Africa?And Asian solutions for Asia?

Attachments (3)
Dan Brigden Accepted Answer

Hi James, many thanks for this inisghtful feedback on the recent conference.

The Innovations Café was specifically intended to showcase innovative new technologies (hardware or software) that have the potential to strengthen supply chains. The intention was to give experts in each technology a space to host an informal discussion and give a hands-on demonstration of that technology. This was formulated to complement the Manufacturers Marketplace, by focusing on the underlying technology of the innovation rather than the specific product/tool.

I think you are right to point out that there are innovations in the area of "wetware" (human resources) that are worth showcasing in addition to hard/software, and this is defnitely something that needs to be considered when designing the next conference. The trick is to choose the most appropriate format for each topic. Formal versus informal, demonstrative versus explanatory, in depth versus high-level, etc. Perhaps in this instance a more prominent platform ought to be provided for "case studies", where innovative projects to support health workers are being demonstrated?

Feedback from many participants at the conference was that both the formal and informal agenda was so packed they had difficulty attending all the events they would have liked to, so we need to be especially careful to build in the space participants need. This may mean cutting down on the amount of events offered.

For those who did not attend the conference and wish to learn more about the technologies that were featured in the Innovations Café, more information can be found in the Conference Guide available here:

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