Findings from the Real-Time Biosurveillance Program was presented in the poster session at the mHealth Summit 2010 (Fig 1). Our partners from Auton Lab were creative in affixing an iPad to the poster to show a video of the working solution. Thanks to the marketing abilities of our friends from Auton Lab, our work caught the special attention of delegates from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, UN Foundation and several other global development agencies. The Gates Foundation’s video crew made an exclusive appearance to capture our poster content and interviewed Prof. Arutur Dubrawski, which made all others presenting their work a bit jealous.
The article following the Economist on the mHealth Summit quotes Mr. Bill Gates saying “most sustainable innovation will come from the middle income countries“. This innovation: RTBP disproves the theory; this innovation came from us bridging the advance technology deficits with the help of Carnegie Mellon University’s Auton Lab; thus, the integration of the T-Cube Web Interface for analytical power with the, grass-roots level workable, mHealth data gathering (mHealthSurvey) and adverse event sharing components (Sahana Alerting Broker) of the end-to-end solution. The Sri Lankan Government supporting RTBP and taking special interest in adopting the technology, is now going beyond the small scale pilot, initially made possible through a grant from the International Development Research Center of Canada, expanding in to a full district to further study the implication of a wider scale deployment. Upon success and rectifying the scalability issues we will go National. The Tamil Nadu Ministry of Health and Welfare, perhaps getting attention through the media, has made special invitations to our partners at IITM’s Rural Technology and Business Incubator to investigate the workability and scaling of RTBP beyond the pilot area in Tamil Nadu.
Dialog Telekom’s Corporate Social Responsibility wing has generously provided free mobile phones with connectivity and the Wyamba Provincial Director of Health Services has secured government funds to cover the operational expenses. Our research findings emphasized that the technology needs to be bundled with new resource persons and this lesson has been taken in to serious consideration by Government with the Health Ministry making provision to recruit minor staff in to the hospitals where digitizing health records will be part of their job.
We may require external support to supplement certain components of the RTBP; especially, with government realizing that money has to go out to the private sector although the services are cheaper. As of now, given that the RTBP total cost of ownership is 30% less than existing paper-based system and the efficiency gains are promising, there is very little doubt that governments in developing countries would not adopt such a system to complement and improve their existing disease surveillance and notification programs. However, public health policies and legislation must be reformed before RTBP can take full effect.