Using digital technology in a rural setting
Using digital technology in a rural setting

By Manjula Marella for ReLAB-HS

New technologies can improve healthcare delivery and increase access to essential services in low- and middle-income countries. What can we learn from a community-based inclusive development (CBID) project in Laos?

Technologies like tablet-based assessment tools, centralized databases and supported decision-making are playing an important role in many community interventions including health, rehabilitation, inclusive development and others. In CBID, there has been limited application of technology.

The CBID Modular Tool is a custom data collection and comprehensive needs assessment tool for functioning needs incorporating an automated database for analysis and generating recommended CBID interventions for developing an individual action plan. The tool was developed by the USAID Okard team in Laos and implemented in the Xayphouthong district in Savannakhet province and Kham district in Xieng Khouang province as a digital case management tool for lay CBID facilitators. The Okard project is funded by USAID and is managed and implemented in Laos by the non-government organization, World Education, Inc., in close collaboration with Humanity and Inclusion and with government and non-government partners.

With the support of ReLAB-HS, Nossal Institute evaluated the implementation of this novel digital technology and documented key lessons learned.

The Modular Tool is found to be feasible, effective, and mostly user-friendly to implement by lay CBID facilitators in resource poor settings in Laos for CBID assessments, planning, and data management. Stakeholders reported optimism about the potential to scale up the use of the tool in local systems. Important lessons for using digital technology to support the integration of rehabilitation into local health systems are documented.

Learnings from this evaluation inform ReLAB-HS in adopting similar digital data collection tools or adapting the Modular Tool content to support rehabilitation within primary health care and community settings in the ReLAB-HS learning countries.

The innovation of the Modular Tool lies in its ability to advance existing methodologies for evidence-based practices in community settings.  Data collection for CBID will be more reliable and faster and can easily be executed at program and community levels.