Solomon Kahuma is a software developer on the DrugDash team. DrugDash is supporting health workers and regional health offices to see and understand the data on drug and health supplies stock levels so as to better understand consumption trends. Below, Solomon Kahuma shares his journey through our Up Accelerate program, and what that means for him.
When I joined four other winning teams for the first cycle of Up Accelerate program in February this year — I was only a software developer, fresh out of university, eager to sit down and code something awesome into existence. I didn’t even have any idea how I’d get it all done. I had a team in place and a lot of passion to create something.
Looking back five months down the road, we have a great product in the market being used by thirty six (36) health workers to simplify their work, in one (1) of the one hundred twelve (112) districts in Uganda. I couldn’t have imagined that a simple Agile approach that I had only just learned about would be the key to efficiently and effectively putting together stakeholder engagements, prototyping, testing, development, and even piloting our solution so as to change the efficiency of the drug supply chain in Uganda.
The Up Accelerate program was composed of boot camps, mentorship and execution on our activity plans so as to build and launch a prototype to market.
I attended a total of four intense boot camps throughout the Up Accelerate acceleration program. During this period, I faced off with topics so alien to my IT-cradled self; ranging from monitoring and evaluation practices, customer development principles, business metrics to unit economics, and legal aspects that included Intellectual property and company incorporation. Many of these subjects would never have crossed my mind as vital to a business and yet here I sat realizing how much more I had to learn.
With just one other software developer, Samson Kapeyi on the team; I immersed myself in all the tutorials and assignments he sent my way so as to improve my coding skills. It really helps to have skilled people who are willing to share on your team. We also had a lot of support from other team members who handled the less technical work.
Following numerous engagements with potential partners and mentors, we set out to discover what the pain points where for our users along the drug supply chain. The findings from these customer engagements provided the foundation for us to begin development of DrugDash (drugdash.org), a decision support system for health workers and regional health offices to see and understand real time drug stock data and health supplies. It seeks to address the persistence problem of under stocking and over stocking of medicines.
Together with my team, I have made numerous trips to Bukedea district, in Eastern Uganda to define needs, prototype, test and eventually deploy our solution. This is incremental development. We have held numerous discussions with the district representatives and health workers within ten (10) health facilities. These potential users of our solution have guided its entire development process. They have provided feedback on the user interfaces that work best, favorable data entry processes and the workflow of the solution.
I have received valuable mentorship from representatives at Clinton Health Access Initiative and Deloitte, that has enabled us crack bottlenecks and leverage their networks for further customer development.
We are now supporting thirty six (36) health workers in public health facilities of Bukedea District to report on drug supplies, usage and identify any potential shortages or over supplies in real-time.
I’m taking this very momentum gained from Up Accelerate, feedback from users and the guidance by our mentors to refine the features of DrugDash, build a stronger and more agile team to enable us take this much needed solution to at least two other districts by the end of the year 2017. The expansion will follow large investment in both hardware and software, human capital as well as the very relationships with sector implementing partners that we continue to benefit from.
We have received overwhelming support from Outbox Hub — the Up Accelerate implementing partner, UNFPA and UKAID. National Medical stores, Clinton Health Access Initiative, have been more than willing to provide insights and their network for us to understand the Family planning supply chain and drug supplies.
I am more than excited to welcome onboard individuals and organizations that share our vision of increasing access to essential maternal medicines and health supplies within the African region.
Solomon is actively seeking to raise $50,000 to further support with expanding the team and increase the deployment to more districts in Uganda.
Up Accelerate is an initiative of UNFPA East and Southern Africa, implemented by Outbox in Uganda and funded by UKAID. It seeks to support young entrepreneurs that are addressing challenges in sexual reproductive health through creation of social businesses with seed funding, mentorship, training and technical guidance to enable them build and launch their prototypes to market, within a period of four months. Up Accelerate is endorsed by the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance in Uganda.