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, Head of IT

A system to operate in any environment


, Head of IT
26 Nov, 2012 05:18 pm

The Gavi Alliance has so far secured over $7.2 billion in funding for immunisation programmes around the world, over its 10 years of existence. We needed a system that would work across tough environments that have variable connectivity.


Gavi (the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) began with a $750 million cash injection from Bill and Melinda Gates, who were keen to see real innovation in how life-saving vaccines could be effectively provided to those who need them most, but cannot afford them. We work to organise and guarantee the funding from our donors in the public and private sectors, as well as to negotiate prices with the manufacturers and to organise the provision of immunisation to different countries. We also aim to immunise an additional 250 million children, and help save four million lives by 2015.
 
Overcoming local and central challenges
But in spite of our huge mandate, and the high value of immunisations that we have provided, as an organisation we only have around 200 employees. We also work with countries where many of the organisations we deal with only have very low or intermittent Internet connectivity. Handling all of the information and providing it in these circumstances can be a challenge.
 
Originally, like many other charitable organisations coordinating global efforts, we dealt principally in a variety of forms being e-mailed back and forth. These forms included applications by countries for us to provide immunisation, progress reports, and financial data. Tracking the data and communicating it as required was difficult.
 
Two years ago, we totally overhauled the system to create consistency and simplicity. We now have what we call our Online Country Portal, which allows health mangers in the countries we work with to easily enter their data in a consistent format. The system also makes it easy for us to query any points and receive answers. Data is typically entered by health managers who handle their country's involvement in the World Health Organisation's Expanded Programme on Immunisation.
 
Piloting the change
We started by piloting the system in four countries: Laos, Rwanda, Vietnam and Bangladesh. As an example of the challenges we faced, the entire office in Laos had only 128 kbps connectivity with frequent outages. From the pilot, we learned to create forms that were broken down into small chunks, so that those inputting the data would see their information saved regularly in case of a loss of connectivity (having a large form only made it harder to save files on poor connections).
 
Now and beyond
All of the countries we work with now use the system. We did inform everyone that if they have particular challenges with the system they could simply use the original document forms, but everyone is finding it easier to use the new system - we have had a 100 per cent take-up.
 
The online country portal also makes our central operations easier. By collecting the data in a consistent format, we will be able to do better benchmarking and make quicker, effective decisions. We are really going to focus on our internal data warehouse and how we analyse the information. We want to make sure we're hitting goals in terms of vaccine delivery, health levels in the countries we help, finance, and a number of other areas. We are also going to improve how we draw data into the system from our government, private sector and not-for-profit partners.
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Jason Ray, the head of IT at the Gavi Alliance, is a global information technology and business leader with a focus on designing and building progressive businesses through the smart use of technology...

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