The Digital Nomad: Blogging from the Health Information Systems Unconference

Carl Leitner's badgePacked and ready to collaborate
In my suitcase there are two iHRIS Appliances, a host of books donated by O'Reilly, and several large printouts of the form maps for iHRIS Manage and iHRIS Qualify. I’m a digital nomad, I say to myself, looking at my backpack full of electronic knick-knacks that will help smooth over any technical hiccups we may encounter during the Training Workshop/Unconference for Interoperable Applications for Health Information Systems. Held in Accra, Ghana, most participants are from the Economic Community of West African States, with several iHRIS developers from Botswana and Lesotho as well.

Open Source systems and interoperability
Dykki Settle, CapacityPlus’s human resources information systems team lead, discussed some of the main aims and goals of the Unconference. In a discussion with other presenters and participants, there was consensus that countries need to build local information and communication technology capacity to ensure that they’re not dependent on US-based staff for support. Part of the solution is to build a local network of Open Source developers, and help them overcome past difficulties in connecting with the implementation of Open Source projects.

Jørn Braa, from the University of Oslo and the Health Information Systems Programme, discussed the multifaceted definitions of interoperability, from getting the particular pieces of software working together, to the data-sharing standard (SDMX-HD), and how the involvement of the different stakeholders will define the system’s needs. Also, interoperability requires varying degrees of granularity of data—with more specific data needed at the district and facility levels versus the aggregate data needed at the national level.

Participants lead the way
I’m excited to work with representatives from several major Open Source health information systems, such as OpenMRS and DHIS. The organizers will follow as closely as possible the Unconference’s principle for designing the curricula, meaning that the participants will define what they are the most interested in learning and what the pressing needs are for the next five days. With the need for flexibility and adaptation in mind, I’ve followed the Health Informatics Building Blocks model to break up training material into small units that can be reused, drawing examples from various Open Source systems.

Read more about the Training Workshop/Unconference for Interoperable Applications for Health Information Systems on CapacityPlus's Global HRIS Strengthening Blog.


Photo: Carl Leitner