by Rohan Fisher & Dr Bronwyn Myers
The rural population of eastern Indonesia generally has limited access to health services due to rugged topography, poor roads and limited health resources. Moreover there are no comprehensive audits of health infrastructure at the district level resulting in poor coordination of health resource allocation between levels of government. This project is using mobile field data collection techniques to identify gaps in health services and to enable more effective and equitable delivery of scarce health resources to remote and poor regions.
This study tested the assumption that recent changes in mobile mapping and GIS technologies have made them appropriate and effective tools for public health applications in rural, developing contexts. Three primary factors seen to be facilitating more widespread use were: (1) decreasing hardware costs, (2) the technological convergence of GPS/mobile-phone/PDA (personal digital assistant) hardware and (3) the development of free/open-source spatial data software. Through this project spatial data collection and visualization technology, normally considered the province of a techno-elite, was introduced to local health administrations in simple, intuitive and inexpensive forms. Through training, tailored to address local issues, capacity was developed amongst health staff (district and clinic levels) in the eastern Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara Timur to collect and interpret data for improved health service delivery. This capacity is particularly important since recent political decentralization in Indonesia has given local government greater control over budgeting and planning.This paper presents two examples of mobile mapping: (1) at the district level, of health infrastructure to inform resource allocation, and (2) at the clinic level, of pregnant women to ensure access to skilled health workers for birth. Through these activities the successful integration of simple field data collection and GIS tools for informing public health planning in low resource settings was demonstrated.