(Re-)emerging and developed countries share experiences

Activities: Informatics for Development - IMIA WG 9, WHO and many participants

Stream Titles and Dates: Workshop of IMIA WG9, Wednesday 22nd August 2007 (16:00-17:30), WHO Panel session, Thursday 23rd August 2007 (14:00-15:30).

Given the change of date of the session, the attendance of The Workshop participants from 12 countries heard three short presentations from a Nigerian perspective (on Connectivity and Access), from Argentina (on issues faced by the intermediate countries in transition) and on the Challenges of Eastern Europe (from Rumania).

Nigerian experiences, described by Adesina Iluyemi indicated that the roll-out cost of wireless networks was around 5 times cheaper than traditional forms but currently the policies of comms operators are a limiting factor.

The Argentinian speaker, Jorge Insua, introduced an intermediate category of country in an in-between status and with some powerful metrics explored where they missed out on initiatives in both developed and developing environments.

He also highlighted the general problem of currency exchange rate fluctuations from donor monies - a phenomenon not unknown to the UK in European Community projects funded in Euros too.

George Mihalas gave an entertaining presentation underpinned with comments that reflected concerns similar to those in England - of official reports always showing a positive picture, of people issues having a significant effect on implementation outcomes and of the dangers of importing / imposing systems without due consultation.

These prompted interesting questions and comparative case studies from the floor - many of which resonated with many countries across the whole spectrum of readiness and development from the floor. 

The work in Brazil around HIS open source code development was particularly of interest to the UK as the development timescales claimed and the miniscule error rates in coding were significant.

The off-programme WHO Panel was significant both in terms of the leaders - Dr Kwankap (YK) of WHO, Professor Wooton (RW), previously from the UK now Australia and the Global Observatory for Health, Dr Giessbuhler (AG) of Geneva who is the IMIA / WHO link person and Professor Jonathon Kay (JK), standing in for Sir Muir Gray who was unable to participate but had already input a very informative and well-presented Plenary Keynote in the main programme. 

YK outlined the WHO position on eHealth and stressed his wish to develop further interactions with IMIA members at individual, collaborating centre and Non-governmental Organisation level. Interestingly there is only one formal eHealth Collaborating Centre (Tromso) and one NGO (IMIA) in our domain - a challenge for the future.

He also outlined an initiative involving 100 publishers in 113 countries giving 2.3 million dollars of subscriptions to scientific materials for free to developing nations. It would be interesting to see how far those facilities extend into  the intermediate countries Dr Insus spoke about in the previous session.

The potential for National Observatory Groups (NOGs!) in each country facilitated by IMIA perhaps was described by RW; there is perhaps a role for BCSHIF in this for the UK? AG presented progress in a Telemedicine networking project in Africa using value for money low cost Internet connections at a tenth of the cost of satellite links in capital and revenue terms. 

Discussion included comments about making significant material available in languages other than English - for example Portuguese, Spanish and French.

Other topics covered before the session ran out of time were how to achieve a common understanding of necessary competencies to roll out eHealth (and from the topics discussed the wider 'health informatics') and practical experiences in deployment of solutions (hopefully the book, see above, will contribute to this).

Another issue bringing participants together was the emerging challenge of bio-surveillance; a topic that will be raised at future meetings no doubt.

Topics for the planned IMIA/EFMI book with the working title of 'Informatics Perspectives - Issues and Similarities for Developing and Developed Countries' have been greatly refined by the discussion in these sessions and subsequent email communication. Watch this space!!