Author Archives: daniellekraus

Case Study: Schedulist

For my case study, I researched Schedulist, a scheduling software that seeks to improve scheduling systems in the healthcare industry and increase the quality of healthcare in the US.  Schedulist was founded under the existing company, InFRONT, and I interviewed Chris Laibe, the founder of both companies and president of Schedulist.

Schedulist targets nurses in particular, who have high turnover rates of 22% annually.  Training a new nurse costs a hospital approximately $50,000; nurse turnover costs the healthcare industry up to 6 billion dollars a year.  The idea for Schedulist was formed through discussions with nurses and healthcare professions about their desires and preferences in the workplace.  Nurses are most likely to stay at the jobs if they are happy, and according to surveys with nurses, the two most important factors determining their happiness at work are a balance between work and home life and a positive work environment.  Basically, nurses want flexibility of scheduling and they want to work with people they like a respect.

Schedulist targets both of these factors in the design of its software, which allows nurses to input their availability and desired shifts, as well as establish a social networking platform where nurses can add friends, see their friends’ schedules, arrange carpools, etc.  Schedulist is used foremost by the hospital’s scheduling staff, and allows the schedulers to fill shifts manually or using the availabilities the nurses provide.  The software also includes a scheduling algorithm that can schedule shifts based on employee seniority, performance, efficiency, etc.  If a nurse is unhappy with her shift or needs to schedule last minute, she can find out who is available to work that shift and send them a shift change request, eliminating the need for mass emailing. The software creates a positive relationship between management and employee because it is flexible, caters to the nurses’ availability and preferences, and can be accessed anywhere through individualized URLs.

Schedulist was implemented in its first clinic in Massachusetts in June 2011, and while it has already expanded to five healthcare facilities nationwide, its effectiveness cannot be gauged until it has been in use longer.  Monitoring and evaluation programs are in the works, and decreased annual nurse turnover would be a direct sign of Schedulist’s success at the end of the year.

Check it out here.

Lessons Learned: ICT4D

I think one of the most important issues in development is creating projects with realistic and attainable goals that target the root of a problem, rather than providing a temporary solution.  Projects often fail because they propose solutions that are not sustainable and they have unrealistic expectations of the local population’s ability to participate in the program.  Take for example, the different types of cell phones and cell phones chargers that we worked with in class.  The designs didn’t take into account the lifestSchedyles of the audience they were targeting and broke easily.  While in the US we are always developing innovative technology to solve problems, but the newest technologies are often not what is most needed in developing countries. I think understanding the breadth of the Digital Divide is one of the most important concepts in ITC4D because it forces us to focus on attainable technology goals for people who may have never even seen a computer. Programs like One Laptop per Child provide children with laptops that may help them with school work or learning to use computers, but wouldn’t a program that taught people how to use computers or  expanded dependable internet networks across Africa have a more far-reaching and long-lasting impact?

For a development project to be truly sustainable, it needs to solve a problem from its source, and I think that establishing accesible and affordable computer and internet access in a town increases that town’s participation in the global communication more than giving children laptops that may not even connect to the internet. At the same time, it is important to asses the needs of each target population individually and understand that what works for one town may not work for the next. I think that in working with the source of a problem, you are forced to asses focus primarily on the needs of the target population above any other factor because you are attempting to build a foundation for all other development projects.  In working with a target population, recognizing their interests is often the same as looking for a solution to the cause of a problem.

In working on my case study project, I encountered an organization whose mission targets the source of a problem rather than providing a temporary solution. I’ve been working with Schedulist, a company tackling the root of an issue in the heathcare industry in the U.S.  Schedulist is a scheduling and networking platform that increases nurse satisfaction in the workplace by allowing for more flexibility and creating an enviornment of mutual respect in the healthcare industry.  Nurse satisfaction determines nurse turnover rates, which in turn determines quality of health care. Hospitals that are constantly forced to hire and train new nurses are draining their resources and have less experienced staff.  Schedulist is helping to improve the quality of healthcare in the U.S. by targeting a root of the problem- employee morale.  This program is an example of development efforts that create an attainable goal by targeting the source of a problem.

New Android app lets everyone get involved in flood relief

This article from the Bangkok Post Tech discusses a new app developed for Android phones that allows user to take photos of flooded areas and submit them to disaster management agencies.  The software  is called Asign (Adaptive System for Image Communication over Global Networks) and can be accessed by Android users or by anyone with an internet connection on their computer.  The user uploads a photo that the software automatically geo-locates, sizes according to bandwidth and sends to a web server where the location of the photo is shown on a map, and the photo can be further shared with individuals and groups, even in high resolution if needed.  The program was developed by AnsuR Technologies of Norway and the server is therefore housed in Norway but it is possible for the server to be moved to Thailand in the future.  The program is valuable because it allows interaction between the disasters victims and the people who are trying to help them.  It allows disaster management agencies to asses the flooding based on images coming from the affected areas, and the geo-locating tells the agencies exactly where the photos are coming from.

I thought this app and software seem like a great idea that could potentially be extremely helpful during a flooding disaster, but my biggest doubt was the availability of internet and phone access during such a disaster.  Living outside New Orleans during Katrina, I know that my mobile phone didn’t work at all for at least a week after the storm and that the network in our area was unreliable for at least an entire month.  I didn’t have a data plan or access to the internet on my phone in 2005, but I can only assume that those services would not have been functioning either.

Do you think that lack of access to mobile service or the internet after a disaster is a potential flaw in the Asign program? Can you think of anyways to combat this problem? is a voice controlled software platform that allows organizations to communicate with poor, rural, and marginalized communities by providing access to information through mobile phones.  Users only need a mobile phone to use because they call actual phone numbers and listen to voice content.  It is used in six different states in India by eight different organizations where its serves a platform for the transfer of information  for agriculture, agricultural market statistics, labor rights, transparency, education, and literacy. Since Awaaz de began operation in September 2010, it has served over 10,000 unique users with over 100,000 individual calls.  The way it works is that a user calls and leaves a message with a question on the server.  A local community manager reviews the question and send it to the appropriate responder.  The responder will call the asker, giving a answer to their questions, which the asker can follow up with more questions if necessary. The community manager may also broadcast the discussion to other people in the community that may find the information useful.  The program has been well received because it overcomes many of the obstacles of the digital divide.  The only technology a user needs is a mobile phone, that doesn’t even need an internet connection.  Awaaz de also overcomes literacy constraints because it is completely operated by voice and it break language barriers because it is made up of regional and user-generated content.

Facebook in Africa

The info-graphic above shows the amount of Facebook users per country in Africa.  According to an article form, Facebook has become a motivation for many Africans to buy computers or set up internet services.  Internet providers have recognized that Facebook is creating a rapidly increasing demand for their services, and in some countries like Kenya and Nigeria, the social networking site has surpassed Yahoo and Google to become the most visited site online.  Facebook has become more accessible in Africa through mobile internet use, and an article form the website Afrininovator doesn’t expect the increase in Facebook use to slow down anytime soon, as internet connectivity becomes less expensive and mobile browsing more accesible.  Facebook also developed a less complex version of their site, called Facebook Lite, that loads faster on slower bandwidths but still has all the basic communication tools of regular Facebook.

Do you think that Facebook use could be increasing the digital divide because it is only accessible to people who have internet?

How could facebook be used to aid any of the development projects we’ve discussed in class? Perhaps in terms of communication or advertising through the site?

For more information, click here.

E-Learning Project in South Africa

I’ve posted a  video documenting a successful ICT program in South Africa that used e-learning technology.  The project established the Ligbron Academy of Technology in Ermelo, South Africa that used Smart Board technology in their classrooms (Here’s the wikipedia for Smart Boards: There is a lack of trained math and science teachers in rural South Africa because to train in math and sciences it is necessary to attend universities in urban areas.  Once the teachers move to urban areas, they are reluctant to return to the rural areas to live and share their skills. The Smart board technology not only allows one instructor to reach many classrooms, but the students can actually interact with the instructor through the board by posting questions or receiving assignments.  The school has seen a great increase in test scores in math and science subjects.

While this video shows what a great impact technology like Smart Boards can have in a school, its important to keep in mind that this video is coming from the Smart Board company’s YouTube channel, and therefore doesn’t mention any potential obstacles in implementing a similar program in a school they are not sponsoring directly. It’s also likely that Smart Board sponsored this program and provided the school with the equipment and instruction. While I do think this is an example of the potential of e-learning in rural areas, I thought of the following problems while watching the video:

– How can rural communities afford to buy this technology?

-Do they have the infrastructure (electricity, internet, relationships with urban teachers) to support the program?

-If there are no teachers in math and science in these rural areas, isn’t it even more likely that there are no computers or computer teachers who would be responsible for the equipment or teaching the children to use it?

Can you think of any other obstacles facing the implementation of this program in a rural area?

ICT in Agriculture in Tanzania

Originally posted on Blackboard by Danielle Kraus

I was excited to read about this weeks subject, because the topics relate directly to the ICT project in Tanzania that I analyzed for my second short paper. Basically the program was created to deal with poverty among rural agricultural-based communities. Many farmers in these areas had no way to access information about market prices for their crops, and were therefore being taken advantage of. The project, CROMBAU, established a internet cafe in the rural area and compiled databases full of information about the product markets. It also encouraged community development and employed children to be messengers, bringing information about crop prices to farmers who did not have access to the internet cafe. The program was really successful, and though it faced some challenges and limitations, they poverty rates in the area were decreased and the program has been used as a model in other areas.

Check out more information from here.

Telemedicine in Post-Katrina New Orleans

When I began reading the assigned article on Telemedicine in Ethiopia, I immediately thought about health issues in post-Katrina New Orleans, particularly relating to mental health.  I did some research a found an interesting article entitled “The Long Road Home: Rebuilding Public Inpatient Psychiatric Services in Post-Katrina New Orleans.”  The article explains that after Katrina, there was an expected surge in people needing mental health treatment due to PTSD, depression, anxiety, etc.  In fact, according to the article, ” The first large empirical assessment of post-Katrina mental health revealed that anxiety- and mood-related mental illness doubled after the disaster.”  Unfortunately nearly half of the city’s psychiatric beds were no longer available due to the closing of Charity Hospital.  Though many psychiatric patients were moved to other hospitals in the state, the lack of trained health professionals in New Orleans after Katrina made treating the increasing number of residents with mental health issues extremely difficult.  The article suggests disaster preparedness plans for mental health services should be put in place, and offer telemedicine as one of the possible solutions to dealing with the lack of available health professionals and increased demand for their services.

What do you think about the effectiveness of telemedicine vs. direct consultation when dealing with people with mental or mood disorders?
Do you see telemedicine as a long term or temporary solution to dealing with the lack of available health professionals in a post-disaster community?

Original Post by Danielle Kraus

New Progress Report on MDGs

Originally Posted: September 20, 2011 2:45:08 PM CDT
By: Danielle Kraus

A press release with information based on a study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at University of Washington in Seattle was released earlier today concerning the progress of developing countries in reaching the Millennium Development Goals of reducing infant and maternal mortality. The study predicts that “only 31 developing countries worldwide will achieve MDG 4 (to reduce the under-5 mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015) and 13 countries will reach MDG 5 (to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters during the same period).”  In sub-Saharan Africa, child mortality has actually increased since the Millennium Development Goals were drafted.  The article explains the difficulties in reaching these goals, which include obstacles like lack of adequate health care facilities or trained healthcare professionals, and lack of management capacity.  I think the predictions that this press release makes raise a lot of questions about the feasibility of the Millennium Development Goals and relate to some of the discussion we had in class last week.
Do you think that the MDGs mistakenly group all developing countries into one category and ignore the individual capacity and challenges of each country?
As each country’s obstacles are often different, do the MDGs make goals that are too generalized?
Could there be other issues in the developing countries that are more important in the short run than focusing on the MDGs (such as war, political conflict, etc.)

Click here to learn more!

Why do most ICT4D initiatives fail?

One of the summarized points of Chapter 2 in the Unwin textbook is “ICT’s have the potential either to increase inequalities or to reduce them depending on the social, political, and economic contexts within which they are introduced.”  In some cases,  ICT4D projects clearly have helped nations make huge strides in development.  According to UNESCO, however, the majority of ICT4D projects fail.  I’ve posted a link to a video produced by Dr. Clint Rogers which explains the top seven reasons why ICT4D may not be successful, summarized below.  The video shows interviews with people working on various developmental projects and poses significant questions about the sustainability of ICT projects.

Top 7 Reasons Why ICT4D Projects Fail:

1. Ideas/ Results are not directly tied to improving end user economic conditions.
2. Not relevant to the local/ context/ strength/ needs.
3. Not understanding infrastructure capability.
4. Underestimate maintenance costs and related issues.
5. Projects supported by only by short-term grants.
6. NOT looking at the whole system.
7. Project built on condescending assumptions.

What do you think about the significance of these issues? Are they relevant?  Are there any other problems you have read about or experience that you think should be included in this list?