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Local Software Development for Global eHealth

Added on 01 Sep 2010
Last updated on 14 Jun 2011

Authors: Joaquin Blaya, PhD; Reviewed by Anat Rosenthal, PhD; Sophie Beauvais

Building and supporting local capacity and expertise is seen by many as critical to the successful development and roll-out of eHealth solutions in countries, programs, and communities. What are the benefits and challenges of having local organizations create and maintain health software and what are the lessons learned from various projects? These are addressed in depth by 26 members, moderators, and panelists with experience in for- and non-profit organizations across the globe.

Key Points

Benefits of local software development:

  • Local programmers are better versed with the environment: Who is the user? Where will the software be used? This also makes the development, testing, and implementation of systems easier.

  • As much as possible programmers and intended users – here health personnel – should be located in the same office space in order to improve communication and avoid misunderstandings that sometime lead to the deployment of inappropriate solutions. A member suggested organizing a “Play Session” with blocks, markers and some paper for a creative way to exchange ideas.

  • In country development supports the local economy and, most importantly, increases institutional capacity to build and maintain systems. Many recount bad experiences with eHealth development by third party consultants from other countries that can’t be maintained locally.

  • Local authorities may accept and trust eHealth systems more if they are able to meet the developers.

Challenges of local software development:

  • It seems harder to find local programmers for open source languages than for proprietary languages like Microsoft .NET.

  • Financing of local software development and workforce is often time not competitive. A member cites the case of Nicaragua where there are very few projects that budget for or take into account software development itself. Some members also noted that there is a tendency to discount rates for local developers and that short contracts are common. While differences in cost of living should be accounted for, this double standard of payment hinders local startups’ ability to be sustainable.

  • Some members cite the lack of experienced leadership to guide a project as a challenge.

Other lessons learned:

Key References

Please consider replying to this discussion with the following information

  • Do you work in an organization that develops or maintains health software? If so, please share your project and thoughts in this discussion.

  • Do you have suggestions to better promote local software development?

Download: 08_23_10_Local_Development.pdf (52.5 KB)