Case Study

Lessons from the pilot of a mobile application to map assistive technology suppliers in Africa

Surona J. Visagie, Rebecca Matter, George M. Kayange, Mussa Chiwaula, Mark Harniss, Gubela Mji, Elsje Scheffler
African Journal of Disability | Vol 7 | a422 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v7i0.422 | © 2018 Surona J. Visagie, Rebecca Matter, George M. Kayange, Mussa Chiwaula, Mark Harniss, Gubela Mji, Elsje Scheffler | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 August 2017 | Published: 29 March 2018

About the author(s)

Surona J. Visagie, Centre for Rehabilitation Studies, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Rebecca Matter, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, South Africa; International Program on Disability, Technology and Rehabilitation, University of Washington, United States
George M. Kayange, Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD), Gaborone, Botswana
Mussa Chiwaula, Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD), Gaborone, Botswana
Mark Harniss, Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington, United States
Gubela Mji, Centre for Rehabilitation Studies, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Elsje Scheffler, Centre for Rehabilitation Studies, Stellenbosch University, South Africa


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Abstract

A pilot project to develop and implement a mobile smartphone application (App) that tracks and maps assistive technology (AT) availability in southern Africa was launched in Botswana in 2016. The App was developed and tested through an iterative process. The concept of the App (AT-Info-Map) was well received by most stakeholders within the pilot country, and broader networks.

Several technical and logistical obstacles were encountered. These included high data costs; difficulty in accessing AT information from the public healthcare sector, the largest supplier of AT; and the high human resource demand of collecting and keeping up-to-date device-level information within a complex and fragmented supply sector that spans private, public and civil society entities. The challenges were dealt with by keeping the data burden low and eliminating product-level tracking. The App design was expanded to include disability services, contextually specific AT categories and make navigation more intuitive.

Long-term sustainability strategies like generating funding through advertisements on the App or supplier usage fees must be explored. Outreach and sensitisation programmes about both the App and AT in general must be intensified. The project team must continually strengthen partnerships with private and public stakeholders to ensure ongoing project engagement. The lessons learnt might be of value to others who wish to embark on initiatives in AT and/or implement Apps in health or disability in southern Africa and in low-resourced settings around the world.


Keywords

Assistive devices; Mobile application

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