Editor’s Note: Its that time again! Summer brings Vecna Cares four new interns working on expansion projects in Kenya. We hope you enjoy their fresh perspectives as they discover the joys and pains of building an information infrastructure.
My first week with Vecna Cares quickly turned into a crash course in hardware design. Though I’d had a bit of experience building computers at home as a hobby, participating in the process at a company level with an original product is a completely new beast. We began the week with boxes of parts and ended it with 10 cased and operational CliniPAKs. Though I was new and unfamiliar with older iterations of the CliniPAK, I could tell that the new CliniPAK 5.o (Touchstone) was the result of a complete hardware makeover. This CliniPAK was built to be waterproof, fall-proof, and even spider-proof, and I didn’t realize how important these features were until I visited my first site in Enosean earlier today.
Just getting there required hours of travel on bumpy roads- which made me seriously worry about the state of the 10 machines that we were taking along with us. Suddenly, I understood the importance of the meticulous attention to structural integrity which we had tried to maintain throughout the course of the build. Then at the site itself I saw a clinic trying to make do with what they had and I learned about the various problems they had to deal with on a daily basis. It made me realize that, if anything, we owe it to these health workers to make our product as reliable and sound as we can. The last thing they want to deal with is their CliniPAK going out. Given the amount of other critical issues they have to deal with, it would almost certainly doom our own efforts, as the fully functioning CliniPAK already requires training and committed, sustained use to be taken up efficiently by the clinic.
However, also at Enosean, I saw the hope that our CliniPAK project holds for the future. Going into the internship, I was worried about the importance of our project, given the myriad of other critical health problems these clinics have to deal with. I was worried the workers themselves wouldn’t want it at all, and that this would be just another one of those projects in developing countries that sounds great on paper and serves no real benefit in reality. However, at Enosean, I met with workers who, having had the system now for over a year, are truly excited about having this reporting capability and have benefited from its presence. In addition, meeting with members of the District Health Management Team, as well as learning about the future vision of total integration with the Kenyan health system, has left me very optimistic about the goals of our project. Lastly, just learning about the Kenyan health system from Jackie, a fellow intern who is from Kenya, and the vision she has for this project, has further proven to me the potential this project has for aiding the development of the Kenyan health system in general.
So at the end of a long day, I’ve come to fully realize the gravity of all that time spent in hardware ensuring that our CliniPAKs could endure the trials they would soon be facing.