A mobile application for fast information gathering especially in field conditions
Plan is a worldwide development aid organisation with a special focus on improving the lives of children. The practical work largely takes place in the field - often in remote areas with difficult terrain. One constant cause for concern is how to collect and distribute information from the field as easily as possible.
Plan had contacts with Pertti Lounamaa, who was disengaging from Nokia and setting up his own company, Pajat Solutions. The company was developing a mobile application that would be suitable for conditions in the developing countries. An inspiration for the project came from the inclusion of GPS satellite positioning in Nokia's inexpensive basic telephones.
Plan needed technology, Pajat Solutions needed a partner for defining needs and for testing. The result of the collaboration was the Poimapper mobile application.
The purpose of Poimapper is to collect and update data in field conditions. A field worker has a mobile telephone with Poimapper installed in it, with which information can be easily added and updated as more comes in. Location information and other information is recorded automatically. To minimise data traffic costs the information is transferred in a centralised manner to an internet portal where it can be examined on a map, for instance. The management and financiers of the project also have access to the information, which leads to improved reporting.
The results have been excellent - time that would be spent on routines and handling breaks in data is freed up for important work.
"In Thailand, for instance, the application has been used in a project in which access to tuberculosis screening and treatment is improved in remote areas where moving around is difficult. Thanks to Poimapper, the volunteer workers of the project save 3 days and field workers 2 days of monthly working time, but what is most important, the success rate of treatment has increased thanks to faster access to the treatment", says Susanna Saikkonen, of Plan Finland.
Meanwhile, in Bolivia, a survey on children's health and early education services is being made in cooperation with local officials. With the help of efficient information gathering, investment decisions can be based on facts, and not on who has the most loud lobbyists", Saikkonen adds.
Although Poimapper was developed in collaboration with Plan, the goal from the beginning has been to develop a general-purpose tool that others can use as well. Mobile-based solutions are especially well applicable to the Third World, because many developing countries are stepping over fixed networks and going straight for wireless networks. In many developing countries, where the infrastructure might be in poor condition, wireless networks can be of surprisingly high quality.
Text: Tommi Niittymies