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My goal is to help improve socio-economic conditions using Community Accountancy ... a system of neutral data that is the foundation for improved decision making and accountability developed and deployed by the Transparency and Accountability Network (Tr-Ac-Net)
I have given your observation some thought ... about 18 months of thought. As I get older, I guess I am slowing down ... or is this just another example of the all pervasive data overload (on top of my failing memory!)
Your observation about SMS data flows being side to side is exactly why I like the architecture ... there can be a lot of detail flowing that is relevant to the community and supporting local action (acts) that are needed. The vertical data flows are smaller and (upwards) serve to inform about how much progress in the community without all the detail of exactly how the community got to progress ... and downwards there may be dataflows about ways the progress might be improved either because knowledge can flow or perhaps money can flow.
Not sure why it took 18 months to see your comments ... it makes me feel a bit/lot foolish!
By the way, I did some work in Malawi a considerable time ago when the country was flooded with more than 1 million refugees from the war in Mozambique ... we were trying to limit the socio-economic disruption all over the South of the country from Llilongwe all the way to the South of the Shire Valley! Of all the "official" agencies, I have been the most impressed by the performance of the UNHCR (High Commission for Refugees)
The SMS data flows side to side (the "upwards" and "downwards" hierarchy might not be appropriate, given the system is supported by purely voluntary action - which is extraordinarily stable). Yes, you have CHWs relaying needs of the communities. The hospital now has a tool to use for comprehensive monitoring (e.g. within antiretroviral and TB treatment programs) and patient tracking. So, information is going both ways.
Protocols for using FrontlineSMS to access the CHW network, relationships between medical staff and CHWs, and the actual data being communicated have developed organically - birthed from respective necessities. You're right - when you're in Malawi, the importance of the 'intervention' reaches out and shakes your hand. Relating that importance - quantitatively, or otherwise (via Tr-Ac-Net, for example) - is crucial.
I'd be very interested to hear/read about your ideas re: malaria surveillance and programming.
Thanks for the kind comment, and the probing questions. I found the Tr-Ac-Net site very interesting - I have heard many argue that accountability is THE necessary supplement if nonprofits are to be effective, in any facet of development.
Help me understand what's added by Tr-Ac-Net and Community Accountancy - given that all the SMS data is coming, unfiltered, from Community Health Workers (CHWs). These CHWs are volunteers - most are HIV-positive, all are members of the society at-large, being served by this rural hospital.
Check out my blog (mobilesinmalawi.blogspot.com), if you'd like to get a feel of day-to-day activities of the CHWs and the hospital.
I'm curious, too - ideally, who operates Tr-Ac-Net? Let's say someone is interested in tracking FrontlineSMS and its socioeconomic impact... Does the hospital run the system? (And, is it web-based?)