Malawi is a small country located in southeast Africa. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique to the east, south and west.
About a third of Malawi’s area is taken by the beautiful Lake Malawi that lies in the northeastern part of the country.
As we have already mentioned on our blog, OpenLMIS is an open-source web-enabled electronic logistics management information system that serves over 11,000 health facilities across Africa. Its main role is reducing stock inefficiencies and improving health outcomes in an affordable way. It does so by transforming and optimizing global and national health supply chains. It has easily outclassed old LMIS systems that ended up being outdated and inadequate for routine supply chain data collection needs.
In 2017 Malawi became the first country to deploy and use OpenLMIS 3.0. The implementation kicked off in February – a month before the new version was released. Being an active member of the OpenLMIS initiative, the SolDevelo team has been asked to support the software development and configuration efforts to help bring this vision to life.
You can find more information on the implementation process, as well as the problems that OpenLMIS 3.0 solves, in our previous article on this topic: OpenLMIS 3.0: Providing Health Supplies For Those In Need.
OpenLMIS replaced an old LMIS system, which was introduced in 2005 and has since then evolved to be an outdated, difficult to use and error-prone standalone application. One of our tasks was to migrate the historical data from the legacy system to OpenLMIS so that the users can still access and view necessary information from the past years.
We have also been responsible for setting up the infrastructure and loading the initial data into the system, such as available health commodities, health facilities, system users and more. Moreover, we have worked on customization of the system to fit country needs. This included user interface tweaks, rewording some of the content and also introducing new, country-specific features. In the spirit of the shared benefit, which was the primary driver for OpenLMIS 3.0, we have contributed a lot of code back to the core project.
This included fixes for bugs that we have found, performance improvements and a new tool that is capable of loading the data into the system from the CSV files. Thanks to contributing the code back, all of those fixes and additions were available for later implementations of OpenLMIS 3.0!
If you’re curious about the latest version of the software, check out this post: OpenLMIS 3.12.
“OpenLMIS has made users lives easier: they can easily report and order supplies using one system within one sitting. The auto-calculations save time for users and improve data accuracy.”Dr Vuso Tembo, Malawi Ministry of Health
Everything we do, we do for the users. Therefore, their satisfaction was the most important measure of our success. After implementation they claimed OpenLMIS 3.0 to be easy to use and to be meeting their needs. This fact alone served as proof that our mission was complete. There were also other signs of success. The implementation of OpenLMIS 3.0 is said to have improved high-level decision making, simplified the country’s logistics data management and greatly increased average reporting rates.
More information on the results: OpenLMIS in Malawi.
A Trip to Malawi
During the initial phase of the project, we had an amazing opportunity to visit Malawi in person. The development team stayed for two weeks in Lilongwe – the capital city of Malawi. We have met the local teams working on the implementation and used that time to better understand project requirements, estimate the work and discuss technical details.
Despite being quite busy, we have also found some time during the weekend to go sightseeing, see the Malawi wildlife and get some souvenirs. Having traveled there in March, we have been in Malawi during the rainy season (summer), which was a nice break from the cold, Polish winter. After five months of hard work, OpenLMIS has been deployed in 28 districts and 5 central hospitals.
Understand the Existing Ecosystem
As the endorsers of The Principles for Digital Development we always strive for best practices that can help us use the Digital Principles to solve real problems. In this particular case we enlivened the second principle: Understand the Existing Ecosystem.
During our stay in Malawi, we got to visit two pharmacies and hear about the current state and issues directly from the end-users. One of the biggest challenges is stable and fast Internet access. Many clinics operate on unreliable and slow connections. We have had a chance to experience that ourselves and verify how well OpenLMIS is able to handle that.
We have to admit that it was not what DIAL describes as an intentional use of the Digital Principles, as we became the endorsers only in 2019. However, looking back at our actions and reflecting on them we realized that it was natural for us to come and meet the people of Malawi, to talk to them, to understand their point of view. It only proves the fact that the Digital Principles are not just idealistic concepts. They are real and they are true. Their guidance is almost intuitive for anyone who wants to improve and who wants to make a good social and digital impact. We will continue to live by them and grow thanks to them.