Open Source and Global Health UnConference Focuses on Health Information Systems in West Africa: September 20-24, Accra, Ghana

The West African Health Organization (WAHO), WHO, the University of Oslo, Health Metrics Network (HMN), and CapacityPlus have joined forces to organize an “unconference” in Accra, Ghana, to strengthen health information systems capacity throughout West Africa. Additional partners include the Kofi Annan Center of Excellence in Information-Communications Technology (ICT) and the region’s ministries of health.

“The absence of accurate, readily available health information is one of the greatest challenges in West Africa,” notes Professor Kayode Odusote of WAHO. “Using open source technologies to foster innovation, adaptability, and ownership of health information systems can save countless lives.”

An unconference is a facilitated, participant-driven conference designed to avoid some of the downsides of a conventional conference, especially high fees and sponsored proprietary presentations.

“We can increase in-country and regional capacity using mature and interoperable open-source software while fostering a developer community,” says Carl Leitner of IntraHealth International, who will be running an installfest and training sessions at the event.

The gathering, which will be held September 20 - 24, will bring together decision-makers, health information system (HIS) managers, ICT support staff from the region, developers of open source software for HIS, and other stakeholders involved in HIS strengthening activities.

"Wide participation is essential to ensure that research, development, and implementation of health information systems can be driven by local forces. Country empowerment is only a part of the puzzle, the best systems are created by involving users as active developers," states Johan Saebø of HMN.

The five-day technical meeting will focus on open source core software solutions that address specific health worker challenges including:

  • iHRIS: a suite of open source tools for managing and supporting health workers
  • DHIS2: an open source system for collecting and analyzing health information for national planning and decision making
  • OpenMRS: an open source medical record and clinical care health system.

“We see this as a launching pad for ongoing locally-designed unconferences across Africa supporting local capacity and community building around open source technology for global health,” explains Heather LaGarde, who oversees IntraHealth’s OPEN Initiative, a coalition aimed at building technological fluency, local capacity, and innovation in open source systems for health in the developing world.

O'Reilly Media has supported this conference by generously donating many books on using Linux, Ubuntu, and open-source software.

Contact: Brooke Buchanan (919) 433-5700 bbuchanan@intrahealth.org

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