Solutions in the palm of your hand, literally

21st November 2016

by: Melina Masnatta

The 17th Membership Meeting of the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition allowed our community to address global problems and seek local solutions. It was the first time I participated and I was surprised by the diversity of stories and experiences.

But what caught my attention in particular was that we all share common problems: lack of access to information and insufficient data to measure results, which in turn interfere with mapping and transparency as well as accountability, leaving us less able to address the concrete obstacles in the "last mile" of supply chains.

We live in a time when the solution often lies in the palms of our hands, in our cell phones. No matter the social or economic class, there are twice more the number of cell phones in the world than there are people. Cell phones are the new link in the supply chain.

Thanks to the Coalition’s Innovation Fund, we are designing in Argentina a technology solution that allows not only access to delivery points and information on contraceptives, it also allows customers to evaluate the quality of services and care providers. Our webapp will be open source (modifiable by the general public) and collect crowdsourced data related to the quality of SRH services. This way, facts feed into information and not the other way around!

These digital solutions will enable a more accurate understanding of what end users need, allow us to understand how to customize and implement, and also allow us to measure improvements in real time -- real time information is critical, as I learned from the plenary panel on Ethiopia’s stock data system.  

Apps are the future; at the Coalition meeting, I was delighted to learn more about predecessors such as the "Love question, life answer" app powered by UNFPA, the Myanmar Medical Association and Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports.

Cell phone technology is a universal language --we are all users. But can we also be creators? Here is the opportunity to bridge the dvidie between two generations: the adults who ask “What is the goal?” and the young people who can answer the question “How does it work?” Our issues are serious and need urgent solutions, and this can only be solved young people and adults come together to design collective solutions.

I came away from the Seattle meeting with clearer ideas and renewed energy, as well as a deep sense of gratitude for the vast knowledge available through the Coalition. I feel intuitively that this is just the beginning of our interest in innovative tools, the first step of a long road trip. A trip I hope that all of us can take together, regardless of age.