Archive for June 2012

Updated mobile HEAT content

I’ve just uploaded the updated mobile HEAT Android app (you can get it from:

The main differences are:

  • a new design (using JQuery Mobile framework)
  • all the content and quizzes are automatically exported from the HEAT courses I have on my local Moodle server, this makes it much easier if we want to update/change the content in the future, or create new modules
  • additional ‘video’ section, so you can jump directly to the videos, rather than looking through the content. Please note though that the videos may not run on your devices, as we pre-load them onto the phone’s SD card, they’re not included in the app download.

For those of you without an Android phone, but would like to see the content, I’ve created a demo page to show the content. You will need to create an mQuiz account to login (you can register for this directly from the demo). Again, with the videos these won’t play from this demo as they are designed to be run offline from the phone SD card.

Any feedback is very welcome.

Cueva del Cobre, Palencia

Some photos from this weekend’s caving trip up to Cueva del Cobre in Palencia. If anyone can identify the (headless) animal skeleton we found (photo) then we’d be really interested to know what it was. We found it around a kilometre inside the cave and couldn’t see any way it could have fallen in (no nearby cave entry points), and have no idea how long it has been there for.

Automatically exporting mobile learning content

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been looking at how we can export content directly from Moodle into the format needed to create the Android application for the HEAT content (see my previous posts here and here).

I now have a basic script running which will export a Moodle course to the files needed to drop into the Android app, including of all the self assessment questions and any embedded image files. This will make it much easier to create and edit the mobile HEAT content, or for any other Moodle courses which we may want to run offline on an Android phone.

Using JQuery Mobile framework, I’ve also given the HEAT mobile app a bit of a facelift, so it looks quite a lot cleaner now and seems to load the pages a bit quicker. Here’s a sneak preview of the new design:

Once I get it all a bit more finished I’ll make the updated app available for download.

VSO lecturer placements

VSO currently has many placements available in Ethiopia, especially in the Technology/Engineering departments of large universities. The placements listed below are just those available in Mekelle (there are more available in Addis, Jimma and Bahir Dar):

The full list of placements can be found at: (see the Education section)

Raspberry Pi Running

Now up and running:

The monitor will run on 12v power supply so I should be able to run the whole system off my solar system – just need to get a few more cables and cigarette lighter splitter.

GPRS Speeds

Whilst back in Ethiopia I tested out the GPRS speed – previously we’d only really tested that a connection was available, not the actual speed of this connection. The results were:

Date Time My location Server location Ping Upload Download
1 Jun 12 11:39 Negash Health Centre Athens, Greece 514ms 60kbps 10kbps
1 Jun 12 11:41 Negash Health Centre Athens, Greece 539ms 62kbps 4kbps
1 Jun 12 11:43 Negash Health Centre Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 435ms 52kbps 14kbps
1 Jun 12 11:44 Negash Health Centre Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 561ms 58kbps 7kbps
1 Jun 12 11:45 Negash Health Centre Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 331ms 62kbps 29kbps
1 Jun 12 12:30 Negash Health Centre Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 473ms 67kbps 28kbps
1 Jun 12 12:32 Negash Health Centre Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 362ms 68kbps 38kbps
2 Jun 12 11:45 Mekelle Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 754ms 119kbps failed
2 Jun 12 11:49 Mekelle Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 342ms 9kbps failed
2 Jun 12 12:03 Mekelle Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 717ms 68kbps failed
2 Jun 12 12:05 Mekelle Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 318ms 70kbps 1kbps
2 Jun 12 16:12 Mekelle Airport Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 434ms 68kbps 8kbps
2 Jun 12 16:13 Mekelle Airport Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 537ms 63kbps 25kbps
3 Jun 12 12:45 Addis Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 335ms 195kbps 67kbps
3 Jun 12 12:46 Addis Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 335ms 188kbps 47kbps
5 Jun 12 12:44 Addis Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 437ms 130kbps 18kbps
5 Apr 12 13:45 Addis Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 1071ms 87kbps 10kbps
5 Jun 12 13:47 Addis Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 441ms 131kbps 14kbps
Average 496ms 86kbps 18kbps

I used the app for Android for this testing, and it’s just to give an idea about what the speeds are, I can make no promises that these are the same speeds you’ll experience!

Raspberry Pi arrived!

Whilst I was back in Ethiopia, my Raspberry Pi arrived (next to a 1 birr coin for size comparison):

As I’ve only been back a day I’ve not had chance to play with it, but will post up again when I’ve got it up and running.

Ethiopia Visit Update

I’ve just come back from a 10 day visit back to Ethiopia, spending a week back in Mekelle visiting our phd students’ projects and a few days in Addis following up some contacts there for future project development.

Case Management Tools for HEWs
We spent a couple of days with the Health Extension Workers and midwives who are using the maternal care protocols and scorecard:

  • We introduced them to the HEAT mobile application we have been working on recently. Their feedback this was really positive. They liked being able to access the videos directly on their mobiles.
  • One of our concerns was that they’d have trouble with the content and quizzes all being in English, but actually what the HEWs told us was that they liked it being in English, since the entrance exam for the HEAT programme will be in English, so having the self assessment questions in English is actually good practice for them. Although the real test will be if we see them continuing to use use it.
  • They seemed to like the changes that we’ve recently introduced to the protocol forms and appreciate that the changes we are making are based on their suggestions for improvements. They seem keen to see us using the same system for other aspects of their work, for example IMCI (Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses), tuberculosis, immunisations and others.
  • The HEWs really like the mobiles and seem to have very few problems using them. In fact several have managed to create their own facebook accounts, even though we have never mentioned anything about this, plus other general internet access.
  • Something we noticed was that many HEWs were not using the rubber protective covers for the phones, or the bags we provided. Apparently the rubber covers make it difficult to fit the phone in their pockets, and the bags are too small to hold the other items they need to carry for work. So we need to rethink what we provide them to help protect the phones. We’re thinking about getting the TVET college in Wukro to make some leather bags for us. They made the tables for our elearning labs at Mekelle Uni, so we just need to find a good bag design for them to create a sample for us.
  • Solar lamps/chargers – originally we had given the HEWs a d.light to use to recharge the phones and for lighting. As a trial, we also bought one ST2 solar lamp/charger from the Solar Energy Foundation office in Addis. It seems only a few HEWs use the solar chargers for recharging their phones, most, even though they don’t have electricity supply at their Health Posts, charge their phones at home or elsewhere in the local town. For those who are using the solar lamps/chargers, they felt the one from ST2 was better as the battery lasted longer, and fully charged the phone. This works well for us since these devices are available in-country whereas the d.lights we would need to import. The cost for each type of device is roughly similar.

A couple of other observations/notes:

  • Phone reliability. So far, after almost a year of usage, we have had a much lower level of phone breakage or loss that we originally expected. Our initial expectation was that we may need to replace around 25% of the phones per year. However, so far we have had no phones lost or stolen. The only hardware issue we’ve had so far is with some phones having insensitive touch screens. 3 of the 20 phones we initially bought have got insensitive screens, although 2 of these had insensitive screens when we initially bought them. We have some replacement screen kits, so we’ll try to fix these. We’re very pleased with this low level of breakage/loss, especially since we are using second-hand phones bought on eBay.
  • We also need to start looking at which phone models may be a good replacement for the HTC Hero phones. Although the HTC Hero phones have been working well for us so far, they are a relatively old phone model, and their availability is likely to decrease, so soon we’ll start to look at which phones may make a good replacement model, based on cost/performance and availability. The only Android phones which seem to locally available are high end Samsung Phones, priced at almost 14,000 birr (approx 640 Euros) they are a little expensive!
  • We heard that one of the local phone manufacturers may start to produce Android phones, so these could be a good alternative option to importing phones.
  • I made few measurements of the GPRS speed, using the Android app. I’ve put this information in a separate blog post (and will post a link here).
  • Henock, one of the research assistants, has been doing a really good job of following up and training the HEWs. I think it also helps a lot that he is from the local area where the HEWs are based.

Another local mHealth project
Whilst in Adigudem, we visited the health centre where they are running another mHealth project – funded by the Clinton Foundation. It’s a very different system to ours, as it’s SMS based, any newly pregnant mothers are registered on the system (by a technician in the Health Centre), with basic information, such as name, location, LMP & EDD. Then when the EDD approaches the HEW receives an SMS to remind the woman to go to the Health Centre for delivery. The HEW needs to respond, using a code to inform the health centre that she has received the message and whether she has been able to contact the mother.

Elearning Thin Client Labs
We visited the elearning lab at Ayder campus, but unfortunately it seems neither of the 2 labs we set up are currently functioning. The main issue is that with both of the servers the disks are full, so no-one can save any of their files, and no new user accounts can be created. Fixing this should be straightforward with help from the university ICT team.

EMRS System at Ayder
Ayder Referral Hospital, where the Health Sciences College is based has recently implemented an electronic medical records system, using the SmartCare system, which is also being used in Zambia. It has been implemented throughout the hospital, with over 100 medical staff having access to use the system. There is some more info regarding the SmartCare system on their website, although it’s a little unclear to me whether this system is open source or not, or how any new modules can be developed (maybe only the original developers can create new modules?). If anyone has more info on this, then please let me know and I can update this posting.

HEW Training
We visited the Nurse and HEW training college in Mekelle and met with the College Dean, and in Addis we met with Tedla from AMREF, who has been working with the HEAT programme for the last few years. Both these meetings have given us a lot more insight into how the HEAT upgrade programme for HEWs is now working, since it has recently changed from a blended/distance based course to centre-based. A couple of the HEWs who were working with us have now joined the college in Mekelle, where they’ll be for the next year for their HEAT training. So we’re interested to see if we can run a short talk to the rest of the classmates about the case management tools they were using.

In all the visit went very well, we’re really pleased with the progress being made and how much everyone seems to like the HEAT on mobile application.