By Vinnie Casambre
The power of data analytics is one that has recently gained awareness in the fields of advertising, marketing, and business analysis, but also in the humanitarian sphere and in international development. Ona started as a data analytics provider focused on tackling public health problems in areas that are underdeveloped, and has recently expanded their mission to “ensure equitable access to services for those who need them most.” Today, Ona is an internationally recognized social enterprise based in Nairobi, Kenya and Washington, D.C., providing technical consulting to the WHO, UNDP, and The World Bank to name a few, and building tools to combat impactful issues in health using data.
Recently, Ona was recognized by the Global Vaccine Alliance for building the Open Smart Register Platform (OpenSRP), a flexible mobile platform that gives frontline health workers the tools to increase immunization coverage. OpenSRP began deployment in 2017 in Southern Province, Zambia as the Zambia Electronic Immunization Register (ZEIR), and is being used in public health facilities to track a child’s immunization and growth. Digitized health records better ensure information integrity, lower the risk of loss, and have practically unlimited -space compared to paper-based information. Digital records can also allow access to a broader birds-eye-view for researchers to view how vaccinations have been distributed over large areas, bettering precision. As of earlier this year, over 90,000 children have been registered and over 1 million vaccinations have been recorded in the Zambia OpenSRP system. Right now, OpenSRP is being used by The Technologies for Health Registers, Information, and Vital Events (THRIVE)’s in a multi-site research trial in Pakistan, Bangladesh and, Indonesia.
MSpray is another one of Ona’s technological solutions for community development and human health. Built in local partnership with the health information company Akros, MSpray is a real-time digital tool is used by Malaria-related aid services to maximize the efficiency of Indoor Residual Spraying – a method of spraying insecticide inside the home to kill mosquitos- and was referenced by Bill Gates at the 2018 Malaria Summit in London. Specifically while Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) is an effective way to combat Malaria, choosing which houses to spray is a barrier to maximizing project resource allocation, especially if its done on the ground. To solve this, mSpray incorporates detailed satellite “risk maps” that visually show data on elevation, population density, and water sources giving spray teams insights about which exact houses to spray in and the exact scope of the project is in total, maximizing resource spending, and giving other spray spray teams in the same organization to know when and which homes were already spread. In Zambia, MSpray has cut down the average rate for a team’s IRS enumeration from $680 to $91.
It seems that the most media-covered and talked about social enterprises are not the quiet companies working (especially in technology) towards preventative methods in global health, however they shouldn’t be saved deeply deserved appreciation. It’s easy to forget that most of the impact on human health most doesn’t come from curing sick people, but from making sure they don’t get sick in the first place.