at the grassroot level of the healthcare system typically has 2-5 villages
with a population of 5,000 to 8,0000 under it. The auxiliary nurse midwive
(ANM), usually a woman with an educational qualification of up to Class
7 or 10, is the point of contact for the villagers, going from house to
house, dispensing the healthcare services. She is also required to generate
reports on the health issues, the causes of the health problems, which
takes up most of her time, leaving her with little time for the actual
dispensation of her services.
Apple Computers, in 1994,
identified this area as the ideal testing ground for its Newton MessagePad,
as the Health Ministry also showed interest, and CMC soon was involved
as it was interested in designing user interfaces. Ajmer in Rajasthan
was selected for the purpose as it is neither as highly developed as Kerala
nor as underdeveloped as Bihar. Five to six ANMs, with no prior knowledge
of computers, were given the PDAs. "We did not tell them that it
is a computer, as that can prove to be a mental block, but told them these
were information appliances," says M Naresh Kumar Reddy, Senior Project
Manager, CMC. A multidisciplinary team was in place for effecting improvisations
as and when required.
The objectives were to provide
support tools that would reduce the ANMs time in making the report, and
increase the accuracy of the data. The next was an attempt to ensure ruggedness
of the device being used due to the difficult conditions, understanding
the hierarchy and replicating an ANM’s day to ensure easier handling of
One of the first hurdles
was that the ANM did not have the time to sit down and key in her data.
A graphical user interface and a pen replaced the keyboard. With this,
the ANM had to only click on the relevant icons and the data would be
generated. The icons intuitively captured the whole gamut of her activities,
including the healthcare services, the families and a provision for prioritizing
her schedule. While writing in English was possible, since the ANM was
most likely not comfortable in Hindi, an online keyboard was integrated
for her to press on the keys and write the report.
At the end of the day, this
data can be beamed to the desktop at the Public Health Center (PHC). The
desktop beams back her schedule for the next day and any other relevant
details. The data thus beamed is immediately available for analysis and
taking immediate action.
Since availability of power
is not good and replacing the battery not an easy alternative, CMC designed
a solar carry case for the recharging of the batter without any extra
effort. A rubber cover for the serial ports and a lid to cover the display
screen were designed to protect it against dust. The PDA went 2 levels
of field trial before being modified and after the 3 trial with the improvisations,
was given to an ANM totally unfamiliar with the device. "It took
a day of hand-holding and after that the ANM could use it easily,"
The advantages of this were
that data reached on time for action to be taken. Similarly, instead of
spreading resources thin, effective utilization was possible. Its effectiveness
can be judged by the reaction of an ANM, "If the Government does
not provide us with this device, I am willing to buy it." The cost,
at this stage, however, is a major deterrent.
In future, Just in Time training
programs will also be provided on the PDA, keeping the healthcare worker
ready with tips on epidemics, precautions, etc, whenever needed.
Seeing the success of this
project, CMC now intends implementing it at the district level in Andhra
Pradesh and in Rajasthan at some subcenters with part funding from both
Governments. The company has also submitted to the World Bank’s Infodev
division a project report for an approximate fund of $250,000.
Since Newton has been discontinued,
CMC will look for alternatives in Windows CE-based devices. "Maintenance
is the only issue. However, we already have resource centers for rural
areas, which can double up for maintaining these systems," said Reddy.
Once the district level pilot is over, the ball will be in the Health
Ministry’s court to implement it across the country.
Net, Set and Go..
…A clichÃ© every one dreams of but barely
achieves because of the absence of an e-commerce strategy.
at the speed of thought. No, this is not the review of Bill Gates’ latest
book but words that express what everyone dreams is possible with the
Internet. While the Internet may help achieve it for businesses operating
from the physical world, setting up a profitable business in the virtual
world is much more difficult.
E-commerce has captured the
imagination of all existing and aspiring entrepreneurs. However, what
is lacking is an understanding of how doing business on the Net is different
from having a presence on the Web. It requires a clear understanding of
customer needs, a breaking away from the physical world of business to
integrating the channel partners online. Of finding new partners that
may not go with the traditional core business but are important for providing
end-to-end solutions. Of brand building and contact management.
Explaining this concept,
Vivek Kwatra, GM Sales and Marketing, Cambridge Technology Partners, says,
"For any successful e-commerce site, myths about e-commerce have
to be shattered." The myth that an entrepreneur understands and knows
the needs of the customer, that e-commerce is the same as e-business,
that call centers are enough to reach out to the customers, that integrating
the customer, the product and marketing data is a pipedream and that the
digital economy is not relevant to his business.
The reality is that the customer
drives the business. And, the customer needs speed. He needs the solutions
yesterday, and being unable to give it even today is a good sign to shut
down shop. E-business is more than the website. Its success is dependent
on technology, processes and scalability. It is an effective way for contact
interaction and should be the main way to do business.
Without a strategy in place,
the word ‘e-commerce’ alone cannot see the success of the site. It requires
an understanding of what you seek to do on the Net, what is the type of
products/services being offered and who is the target. Once this is identified,
an analysis of the business potential of the product/services is essential
as without a clear deadline for return on investment and cost cutting,
the money could well flow down the drain. Once the potential is understood,
the entrepreneur can move onto product definition, design, development
and rollout. However, since speed is the key, a fixed price/fixed time
approach is the best, suggests Kwatra. "Most companies understand
fixed price but fixed time is hardly given any importance," he adds.
And missed deadlines is suicidal.
However, once the rollout
stage is crossed, it is still not time to put your feet up and relax.
Traffic generation is the only way to ensure the success of the site.
While this can be achieved through advertisements and other similar brand
building exercises, a lot of it depends on drawing from customer database
obtained through key questions included in the feedback form and devising
new schemes for repeat visits. A caution here is that promising what cannot
be delivered is a sure-fire way of losing visitors to the site. Which
means, having the technology and the systems to deliver the promises.
Being a new medium, the models
and technologies are not standardized and it is anybody’s game. At this
stage, the only savior can be a clear strategy, understanding of the target
market, a plan for return on investments and an eye on cost cutting. This
has to be backed with systems and technologies that can help realize the
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