According to the World Bank, around 75% of the world’s population has access to a mobile phone. As you can see from the image below, this number is significantly increasing over time, especially in developing world countries, such as Cambodia.
At InSTEDD, we see the advancement of the mobile phone as a growing opportunity to improve information sharing and collaboration to improve health, safety and sustainable development. One of the ways we’ve taken advantage of this opportunity is through our open source Resource Map tool.
Resource Map is a tool that helps people track their work, resources and results geographically in a collaborative environment accessible from anywhere. This web-based application in integrated with SMS-based technology which allows for collaboration and information sharing, regardless of whether there is an internet connection in the field or not.
(caption: this simplified visual shows how people can collaborate to share information about their resources)
Resource Map utilizes the mobile phone as a tool to share information via SMS, as well as the added benefit of visualizing that data. The tools displays the incoming information geographically onto the surface of a map (such as Google Maps or Open Street Map) so that people can see which resources they have available and where they are. Users who are in the field without an internet connection can simply send an SMS query to the system in order to send or receive information directly from the system. Having a real time clear picture of this helps to improve collaboration on a massive scale.
Creativity in Resource Constrained Environments
In low-resource environments, like here in Cambodia, a tool like Resource Map can make a huge difference. Collaboration in public health work has been difficult to do for a number of reasons, including the high expense of geographic information systems (GIS) and the sparse internet connection in many rural areas.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, oftentimes boundaries can enhance creativity. At InSTEDD, we’ve found that when there are limitations (i.e. connectivity, cost, literacy levels) it forces us to rely on our own ingenuity and creativity. Developing Resource Map was a perfect example of this.
Resource Map as a Smart Phone Application
Our commitment is to make our tools as accessible and helpful as possible by utilizing the resources people have available. That is why we are implementing the tool to make it available in the smartphone via Android platform. With the mobility and various hardware support of the smartphone plus the additional features that the Android platform offers, the application will help improve collaboration and enhance efficiently by connecting people to the information they need when they need it most.
One of the main features of the application is the ability to easily create or edit the resources anywhere, anytime, regardless of your internet connection. By allowing the user to use the application offline and then sync it when they have access to an internet connection, this helps them to continually have Resource Map as a resource for them. This is very helpful for the field users who are oftentimes without a proper internet connection. Users can also visualize, search and edit their resource information via their smartphone.
Currently, we are continuing to make progress on the development as we integrate more features into the application. As we improve the user interface, we are also exploring opportunities to take advantage of the smartphone hardware capabilities, such as the internal GPRS or wifi or camera, so that we can use them to do things such as detect the latitude and longitude of resources or to take photos of the site.
We will continue to work with users in the field to evolve this tool so that it supports the ultimate goal of helping users simplify, quicken and improve the information they have access to.
Here are some visuals to help you see more about how it works.
(caption: Resource Map Android Application log in screen)
(caption: Resource Map Android Application form entry)
(caption: Resource Map Android Application location detection)
(caption: Resource Map Android Application mock up)
Working Together - share your thoughts with us!
As all of our projects are open source, we highly encourage you to have a look at our source code and to share any comments, feedback or contributions with us. You can find the source code at:
Resource Map: https://bitbucket.org/instedd/resource_map
Resource Map Android: https://bitbucket.org/ilab/resourcemap-android