By Subecha Dahal, Nepal Project Coordinator
There are various ways to gauge the needs of users, like conducting user feedbacks and stakeholder consultations. However among the barrage of information available about the needs of users, recognizing user priorities requires a closer look. Introducing a new tool or technology can be very organic and it is not necessarily effective or realistic to have a complete system at the get go, as the technology grows steadily through testing and user feedback, to check what works and what does not work for the user.
In order to build stable technology, it is difficult to incorporate and build for every requirement that is communicated at once. It happens in phases. Also because it is important to consider whether the user is ready to use it. For example, VaxTrac’s touch-based training module is specifically designed to focus on different aspects of the system, so the health worker can effectively use it. The first training focuses on the basics of how to use VaxTrac so that health workers can become comfortable with it. After a couple of months, the next step involves training the health worker to use the reports and callback feature. These features allow the health worker to use aggregate data collected by them to predict numbers for the next vaccination session, as well as to use it to submit their monthly reports.
Similarly there are some distinct requirements that stand out and are national priorities. When we conducted stakeholder consultations among immunization officials in Nepal, three distinct priorities stood out each time in every conversations: increasing vaccine coverage, decreasing drop out rate and decreasing vaccine wastage. While there are other standing concerns, including need for sturdy infrastructures for outreach sites, curbing AEFI cases and effective stock chain management, our tool has mostly focused on these three top priorities that were communicated. And one of the distinct differences between the VaxTrac tool in Benin and Nepal is the OCR (Optical Character Reader) function, which is a feature that identifies and stores details of vaccines received and used, because it is a national priority.
The VaxTrac system is a set of tools that effectively communicates data with each other. Each tool was built with a specific user in mind, on the immunization management chain. While the tablet based application is for the health worker, the data communicated from the tablet is available to users at the district and the central level in the VaxTrac Monitor, a dashboard for data visualization. To a health worker, an easy to use tool and replication of the registers and forms they use everyday can be most important, while for a data manager, data analytics is very important. And we design these tools, keeping in mind this variation in need and user priority.
These tools are field tested to check their accuracy and effectiveness. However many times, for various reasons, field testing gets passed over as a component that is not required or that can be done along with field implementation. This can drastically affect user experience, since even the perfectly designed tool can have unforeseen and external factors like access to connectivity, electricity, that can lead to unexpected issues.
Technology that are tools are never final product, since context and priorities change. So user feedback and consultation is a regular part and process of the project cycle. Tying it all together, giving users what they need is an organic process and very contextual. It always requires a closer look.