Recently I stumbled upon an ICTWorks article on a Humanitarian Grand Challenge which included an excellent Analysis of Barriers Affecting Innovations in Humanitarian Contexts (PDF), and it reminded me of a concept that has surfaced from time-to-time in OpenLMIS that goes something like this:
OpenLMIS is hard to configure (because routine supply chains are complex), however when disaster strikes the value of an integrated health supply chain stays the same, if not increases; so if we could just make it easier/faster/painless to deploy OpenLMIS then we could help supply meet demand and lessen the impact of that crisis.
I think we’ve all heard of or seen some response to a humanitarian crisis that attempts to use ad-hoc communication or data collection tools (e.g. SMS, WhatsApp, ODK, google forms, CommCare, etc) instead of a supply chain tool, and if you’re like me you groan a little inside. On the other hand supply chain tools tend to be medium to heavy-weight, OpenLMIS certainly qualifying, and in a crisis we’ve all heard how all the normal infrastructure fails and responders have to use the tools at hand.
What I’d love to do is brainstorm on two topics:
- Would OpenLMIS really help in a crisis, and if so what does that crisis look like? or NOT look like?
- If we thought of an OpenLMIS “crisis mode” for #1, what would those features look like?
I’ll start to get the ball rolling,
- The crisis needs to not be very temporary. Nor is it narrow in geographical scope. It likely effects many for a period of months, or longer, over a wide-area. Disease outbreaks, aftermath of a natural disaster that destroys public health infrastructure, conflict that displaces populations and services are examples. Enough time needs to pass that adequate resupply will be a factor. Enough of an area needs to be effected that multiple competing needs have to be balanced. In this regard OpenLMIS as a supply chain tool that understands health products, which has multiple resupply workflows to fit different needs, and which is engineered to work in low-resource environments is well suited (with improvements) to bringing better supply chain practices to crisis contexts, and those practices will help supply better meet demand.
- We’d loosen rules and up-front configuration and instead rely on ad-hoc data entry and conventions: Facilities, equipment and products could be added ad-hoc, supply chain hierarchies would be flattened, approvals for resupply requests would be very short or squashed. Strict rules would be turned off and instead simple recommender systems would be built: if you do this your stock technically will be negative, if you add that facility there is actually one already added with a similar name, etc. These “crisis mode” features could be selectively turned off by some vertical (program, location, product) over time, allowing the implementation to grow into a more routine one with many data quality checks, rules and approvals - what OpenLMIS currently does well today.
These are just some of my thoughts though, what do you think?
Some more (possibly) relevant material: