Donor Seed Funding for Scalable Projects – The CliniPAK Nigeria Experience.
The setting was the rustic Safari Park Hotel in the middle of the proud city of Nairobi which hosted the 2016 ICT4D conference. I sat with Margaret Ombai, Qaulcomm Wireless Reach representative in Kenya. While enjoying the tasty lunch, courtesy of our hosts, Margaret turned to me and asked a probing question that required me to examine our entire project in a few seconds to come up with an appropriate response. The question was: What is the secret of the success of the Wireless Reach funded CliniPAK program in Nigeria?
The answer to this question was neither simple nor straightforward. To set the context, I need to go back through the history of InStrat. I started InStrat Global Health Solutions in 2010 in-part to realize the promise of Mobile Health technologies in Africa. My focus was Nigeria – the country of my birth and childhood. Early on, upon the successful pilot and commercialization of a SMS based remote patient monitoring service, I approached Vecna Cares with an offer to introduce and promote their recently developed CliniPAK system in Nigeria.
For two years, I made countless trips from my home in Montclair, New Jersey to Abuja, Nigeria to introduce and find the appropriate home for CliniPAK. My propositions were always met with eager excitement that quickly fizzled out once the conversations turned to financial commitments for implementation – even for proof of concept projects. There were several points in the process at which I questioned the wisdom of continuing to run into brick walls. I nonetheless remained steadfast because I believed in the power of the technology and believed that it was only a matter of time for opportunities to emerge. I soldiered on.
Almost prophetically, the stars aligned soon afterwards with the Qualcomm Wireless Reach Grant provided to introduce CliniPAK to Nigeria for electronic patient health data collection and management at urban and rural primary health care centers. This grant was executed under the auspices of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency’s Midwives Services Scheme.
From a 2 facility pre-pilot in 2013 we grew to 14 facilities in 2014; 51 in 2015 and are currently rolling out to another 50 facilities in June which will bring our 2016 footprint to 101 facilities.
Along the way, we have learnt important lessons –
- Local buy-in and partnership is a critical success ingredient. With local buy in and involvement out results in our most recent State quickly surpassed the results of all the results of all the other States. With this realization, we have approached two other States and interim results are pointing to the experience with most recent State.
- Demonstration projects at no cost to the States are an important tool to secure States’ buy-in. This approach has already led to the commitment to a significant State funded scale up of CliniPAK in one State and the assurance of State-funded scale ups in three other States if demonstration projects are successful.
- As a for-profit implementing partner, InStrat’s profits come, not from grant funds, but from scale funding as well as other applications of the basic technologies. To further expand the experiential impact InStrat has applied our systems for Front Line Health worker training for Ebola Virus Disease; electronic surveillance for a methanol poisoning outbreak and a health worker video training project. These projects have enhanced stakeholder buy in and interest in funding the purchase and scale up of CliniPAK systems.
The above experiences have informed our revised pitch to State Governments which has been 100% successful to date: Qualcomm funds will seed a demonstration project and the State will fund a scale up if successful or work with us to orchestrate an orderly wind down otherwise. This pitch has led to identification of additional use cases that create a hook for CliniPAK.
Upon this reflection, my response to Margaret was that our success was the marriage of a simple yet powerful and effective tool with a for-profit company that must identify pathways for scale and sustainability to ensure profitability. While we elaborated on the above points, ushers reminded us that the next conference sessions were about to commence – and I closed with an acceptance to write this blog.