A couple weeks ago I was approached to be a part of the IntraHealth Open Council, representing Ushahidi. The IntraHealth Open campaign is about driving open source technology into the health sector across Africa. I’ll be the first to say that I know little about the healthcare sector, however I’m a part of, and a big proponent of, using open source technology where it makes sense in Africa. Having no idea of who, or what this initiative was, I asked for more information and after a discussion with one of the initiators (Heather LaGarde) I decided to join.
“Another important barrier to the rapid implementation and sustainable use of eHealth solutions in developing countries is the recurring, and often costly, licensing and upgrading fees of proprietary software. Open source systems, based on licenses that ensure usersâ€™ freedom, no recurring fees, and that work with the principles of sharing and collaboration, offer the promise of filling this gap.”
What Heather and the team have done is create a campaign that brings in some big name recording artists, like Youssou N’Dour and Peter Buck of R.E.M. Beyond the big names and the campaign as a whole, I think what’s important is that it brings a whole new level of attention, from a much more consumer-side sector, to the need for using open source software in Africa.
Examples of open source in African healthcare solutions:
- OpenMRS, a community-developed medical records system
- Baobab – Open source hardware and software for clinics
- IntraHealth’s iHRIS human resource information system
- OpenELIS laboratory/diagnostics information system
- OpenROSA mobile data-collection toolset
Personally, I hope they make money, but that’s not really the big deal. More important is the awareness raised for open source initiatives, even beyond healthcare, in Africa.