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Innovation in Mobile Reporting: Community Health Worker Reports Land Tenure Claims with DHIS2

`Brian O'Donnell December 18, 2015
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I think mobile tools are fantastic, especially when they empower individuals to quickly report important community events. Does your neighborhood latrine require an urgent upgrade? DHIS2 monitors community-led sanitation programs which have brought over a million Zambians new access to adequate hygiene. Is your local health clinic running low on malaria medicine or rapid diagnostic tests? Akros has a DHIS2 app for that too.

These “mHealth” tools help communities navigate through crisis and transition, all while reinforcing each community member’s rights to lead healthy lives. I emphasize rights here because it’s ultimately these multiplicative, integrated rights (like access to care and access to clean water) which provide the foundation for sustainable development. If mHealth tools exclusively focus on health, they risk ignoring these other types of rights. For example, in rural Zambia, people also have the right to live and work on their family land. But where are the mobile tools to protect traditional rights to land ownership?

Juvensio Banda, chairperson of the Village Land Committee (VLC) in Kalichero, Eastern Province.

Juvensio Banda, chairperson of the Village Land Committee (VLC) in Kalichero, Eastern Province.

Partnering with The Chipata District Land Alliance through USAID’s Global Climate Change and Land Tenure program, Akros recently designed and deployed a mobile DHIS2 tool for rural Zambians to track changes in their land claims. These data changes are immediately sent to the CDLA’s central repository, allowing the local chief to print and deliver customary land certificates.

We put a lot of thought into re-designing a “health” software to monitor land rights. Yet it did not fully prepare us for how end users experienced the system.

“Oh! DHIS2!” someone said as we started app usage training in Kalolo, Chipata. “I’ve seen this before.”

Juvensio Banda is the chairperson of the Village Land Committee (VLC) in Kalichero, Eastern Province. To our surprise, he’s also a Community Health Worker at the nearby Jerusalem Health Post. In the past month, he has reported twice through a DHIS2 portal Akros designed for a ZCAHRD study on mobile tools for integrated community case management (ICCM).

Precious Zulu (Chipata District Land Alliance) and Matt Sommerville (USAID) explore a map of land ownership in Kalichero, Zambia with local stakeholders.

Precious Zulu (Chipata District Land Alliance) and Matt Sommerville (USAID) explore a map of land ownership in Kalichero, Zambia with local stakeholders.

He’s the first person to use DHIS2 for both a health and non-health related function. This is a rarity; both the land tenure and ICCM interventions randomly selected villages across Chipata to receive the interventions. But his dedication to the community is anything but random. “I just always have supported people in the community, to help them and serve them, for whatever diseases may come,” Mr Banda said. “So I can be teaching health education, so that they know how to prevent malaria, diarrhea cases, and so on.”
When asked why he volunteered to head the land tenure committee, he said “Because I know I need to help people in the community. I’m used to helping people.”

He also noted that using a single system for both roles smooths the learning curve.

Community members gather around  high-resolution satellite maps and registries displaying their village's land claims, produced by the Chipata District Land Alliance with support from USAID.

Community members gather around high-resolution satellite maps and registries displaying their village’s land claims, produced by the Chipata District Land Alliance with support from USAID.

“At first I found [learning DHIS2] to be difficult,” he said. “But as I am going on, trying to help out VLCs, I found it very easy.”

Cartoon by a Zambian artist explains the customary land tenure in the local language, Nyanja.

Cartoon by a Zambian artist explains the customary land tenure in the local language, Nyanja.

Re-purposing mHealth tools for other sectors is one type of innovation. But from this experience I’ve seen that real cross-sector integration happens at the ground level. All rights are inherently integrated–as are an individual’s roles within the community. Technical innovation merely reflects the way rights and roles bind together through community service.


About Brian O’Donnell

Brian O’Donnell is an Health Informatics Officer for Akros and a 2015/2016 Global Health Corps fellow. Prior to joining Akros, Brian was a project manager at AidData. He holds a Master of Public Affairs from The University of Texas-Austin and a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the College of William & Mary.


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