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Short Message Service Solutions for Supply Chain Management

Added on 17 Jan 2011
Last updated on 14 Jun 2011

Authors: By Amanda K. Johnson; Reviewed by Sophie Beauvais

In the words of GHDonline member Anup Akkilah, “the efficacy of medicine is irrelevant if drugs are not available in the first place.” This discussion focuses on the use of SMS technologies for drug supply chain management in which members in India, Malawi, and the United States share experience with specific advocacy campaigns.

Key Points

  • The Stop Stock-outs Campaign was launched in February/March 2009 as a “call to action for African governments to meet their obligations to provide essential medicines by increasing the national budgetary allocation for the purchase of these medicines and by ensuring efficiency and transparency in the procurement, supply, and distribution of medicines.” The campaign is an initiative of Health Action International (HAI) Africa, Oxfam, and a number of African partners with the support of the Open Society Institute (OSI). Developed by Ushahidi, a non-profit tech company that specializes in developing free and open source software for information collection, visualization and mapping, Stop Stock-outs allows people in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, and Zambia to send an SMS of stock-outs of essential medicines in order to visualize this information on a map, and raise awareness on better supply chain management.

  • FrontlineSMS: A free open source software program that allows you to text message with large groups of people anywhere there is a mobile signal. Using this software, a laptop plugged into a cell phone becomes a low-cost communication hub. FrontlineSMS can be adapted for medical use by using java-based forms with standardized questions and answers for example. The source code is available online.

  • RapidSMS is written in Python and utilizes the Django framework to enable the management of data collection, workflows, and group coordination using basic text messages on mobile phones. The data can be presented on the Internet or exported to other platforms. The code, as well as documentation and tutorials can be downloaded on the website.

  • SamaanGuru, which in Hindi means “inventory teacher,” is an SMS-based solution developed specifically for supply chain management. It is “fully hosted, customizable and supported supply chain management services accessible through mobile phones or a typical web browser.” SamaanGuru is currently invite-only. Compatible phones/devices have to run Java version MIDP 2.0 or higher.

  • In a related discussion, member Holly Ladd from AED-SATELLIFE mentiones the GATHER platform that allows for data collection and supply management on java-enabled phones.

Key References

Enrich the GHDonline Knowledge Base
Please consider replying to this discussion with the following information

  • Your experience using supply chain management tools

  • Thoughts on addressing the shortage of pharmacists needed to manage the drug supply chain

Download: 01_17_11_SMS_Supply_Chain__.pdf (37.2 KB)