At Open Source Unconference—Systems Now Interoperable and Regional Networks Built

CapacityPlus staff members Carl Leitner and Dykki Settle recently traveled to Ghana to provide training and leadership for the Health Information System (HIS) Unconference, hosted by the Kofi Annan Centre for Excellence with support from the West African Health Organization and the Health Metrics Network. Conference participants included human resources managers and directors from West Africa, and HIS developers from West Africa, Botswana, and Lesotho. Representatives from several major Open Source HIS including iHRIS, OpenMRS, and DHIS also attended.

For the training, the organizers took an “unconference” approach in which the participants themselves defined what topics and skills they were most interested in. Throughout the training, Leitner carefully implemented the Health Information Building Blocks (HIBBs) model to break up training material into small units that can be reused, several of which will soon be offered through eLearning. Participants learned from each other as well as the trainers about not only the technical aspects of various HIS, but also how countries such as Mali, Togo, Nigeria, and Lesotho are implementing and customizing HIS to suit their needs.

Another important part of the Unconference was the SDMX-HD connectathon. The World Health Organization and partners developed SDMX-HD to facilitate data exchange among different Open Source HIS. An HIS’s functionality is hindered if data coming from different systems are siloed, unable to communicate or operate with other relevant, related data.
The SDMX-HD connectathon allowed development teams to work through issues to achieve multiple system interoperability. For the first time before a live audience, the data teams demonstrated data exchange among multiple Open Source programs—IMR, DHIS2, OpenMRS, and iHRIS. This major milestone now defines what it means to implement a fully functioning HIS. As a result of this breakthrough, there is now an even greater need for various HIS software components to make their data available. Furthermore, increased access and increased data integration will provide a better basis for health policy decision-making.

At the end of the Unconference local developers left with a solid foundation for implementing and customizing iHRIS in their countries. In addition, by linking these developers together, participants created a regional support network for a true South-South collaboration.


Photo: Dykki Settle. (Professor Kayode Odusote [center] of WAHO reviews iHRIS customizations with delegates from the Togo Ministry of Health)