The Government Innovation Awards recognize disruptors and emerging leaders who are using information technology to transform government agencies. This year, USAID and Chemonics are recognized for using technology to overcome challenges in low-resource settings.

The transformative power of information technology (IT) infiltrates the day-to-day lives of people around the world — from the once-remote communities who now embrace social media to the youth who were excluded from finance but are now using mobile money. Across geographical borders and technical sectors, IT is helping to drive change, and the public sector is no different.

The Government Innovation Awards, presented by 1105 Public Media Group, recognizes the movers and shakers who are using technology-driven innovations to transform government agencies. Through innovative technology on the USAID Global Health and Supply Chain Program – Procurement and Supply Management (GHSC-PSM) project, USAID and Chemonics are doing just that.

A double winner in the public sector innovations category of the 2018 Government Innovation Awards, USAID was first recognized for GHSC-PSM’s exploration of using cargo unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or “drones,” to deliver lab samples and other health commodities to hard-to-reach health facilities. Although drones are regularly used for satellite imaging and capturing photographs in the commercial and humanitarian relief sectors, using cargo drones in international development and relief settings is relatively new. However, their use could greatly benefit health facilities in rural settings with limited distribution systems and weak infrastructure that create gaps in servicing patients. The project is exploring use of a hybrid drone that takes off vertically, like a helicopter, with propellers that rotate and allow it to fly like an airplane. The drones will be able to land efficiently and in small, precise spaces at health facilities. GHSC-PSM recently published this UAV procurement guide based on the project’s experience procuring UAVs to help others interested in exploring their use in public health supply chains.

USAID received a second award for GHSC-PSM’s introduction of new temperature and humidity monitoring sensors along health supply chains in Africa. As estimated annual global losses associated with temperature excursions in health care amount to billions of dollars, it is critical to monitor the temperatures of medicines continuously. Despite this, regular monitoring is costly or logistically difficult in many low-resource settings. As a result, USAID invested in durable, simple-to-use “internet of things” sensors on the GHSC-PSM project. The sensors can sense temperature, light, humidity, location, and motion, offering the ability to monitor these conditions all along the supply chain. By automatically transmitting data to the cloud, the sensors show how long a shipment has been in the danger zone and provides a wealth of actionable insights. GHSC-PSM now has nearly 300 sensors monitoring temperature and humidity in warehouses, clinics, hospital storerooms, trucks, and with community health workers in Mozambique. Similar testing is underway in Burkina Faso and Angola, with plans to expand to six more countries in October. This wealth of data gathered from the sensors informs ways to reduce the chances of temperature excursions, ensuring that lifesaving health commodities maintain their quality and effectiveness for patients.

Finally, Chemonics won an Industry Innovators Award to recognize its collaboration with Arizona State University (ASU) to develop a transport management tool called TransIT, which is also being used on the GHSC-PSM project. Although transportation management systems are important for tracking where shipments are at any given time, whether they’ve been delivered, and costs at each stage, many commercial solutions are too costly or not flexible enough for diverse and low-resource environments. Together, Chemonics and ASU developed TransIT to offer a low-cost, flexible, customizable product that can be adapted to the needs of each country partner and its operations. This customized database aggregates end-to-end data — from distribution planning through delivery to the recipient — to track performance, location, and costs as commodities move through the in-country distribution network, which enables operations to run smoothly and on time. In addition, Chemonics and ASU created an accompanying Android app, the Electronic Proof of Delivery App (ePOD), for truck drivers to upload information about shipments and their delivery status. The ePOD app also allows drivers to upload pictures of the ePoD, its recipient, and the shipment at a delivery location, with a time and location stamp. If the driver is in an area without connectivity, the system uploads information automatically once internet becomes available. GHSC-PSM is testing the tool and app, which require only minimal infrastructure, setup, and maintenance costs, in Angola, Lesotho and Mozambique, with plans to roll out to additional countries soon.

“We’re honored to receive the 2018 Government Innovation Awards and celebrate the innovative technologies deployed by USAID and GHSC-PSM. At Chemonics, we know that advancement in technologies combined with a culture of innovation can create new approaches that lead to change in even the most challenging, hard-to-reach environments. It is through efforts like those recognized by the Government Innovation Awards that we’re increasingly able to offer a flexible, responsive, and efficient supply chain to enhance lives worldwide,” says Jamey Butcher, Chemonics Executive Vice President and Acting IDIQ Director of GHSC-PSM.

Chemonics International and a consortium of partners implement the USAID GHSC-PSM project, which ensures an uninterrupted supply of public health commodities that save lives worldwide. Find out more about the project here.

Photo credit: Andi Gultom