Creating Space for Easier Collaboration on Data Migration

Collaborating does not just happen accidentally; it requires time, planning and dedicating resources to look for and develop opportunities.” – Digital Principles for Development. 

When it comes to working together on a shared pain point, having a supportive climate for collaboration can help smooth the way for OpenMRS implementations to re-use existing solutions or work together and leapfrog to the next level with new, innovative solutions. Recent efforts around data migration in Nigeria and Kenya shows what can happen when donors, the OpenMRS community, and contributing organizations discover and nurture opportunities to join forces, leverage community spaces to work together, and make joint progress on shared priorities. 

In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked a couple of great questions: Could a senior OpenMRS community developer give some guidance to new developers from four organizations in Nigeria? Could they all work together to make progress on a set of priority requirements for this OpenMRS implementation?  Some developers working with these implementations are already familiar with the OpenMRS Community. Others had been working with proprietary systems, and were relatively new to OpenMRS – and an open source community. 

This led to a two week bootcamp in Abuja, facilitated by OpenMRS Community Development Lead Daniel Kayiwa. Using a list of shared priority requirements, Daniel took Nigerian developers through not only the OpenMRS software, but the community’s conventions and practices as well. He helped them join the OpenMRS discussion forum (Talk), set up github repositories, and shared his tips for finding developer resources on the OpenMRS Wiki. 

Connecting OpenMRS developers in Nigeria with other OpenMRS developers on Talk led to the discovery of existing solutions that could be built upon – and save time. One developer shared how he used the Location Based Access Module to manage sites remotely, which reduced the need to travel to 45 different sites for troubleshooting. Another launched a discussion about concept creation and management with the larger OpenMRS Community on Talk, leading to an exchange of knowledge and experiences from Uganda OpenMRS developers as well as content management experts that pointed the Nigerian team towards their next step. The Nigeria team has developed additional solutions for NigeriaMRS, including an export module to facilitate data push from OpenMRS to the National Data Repository, the Patient Biometric System, and data visualization for several indicators. 

Following the August bootcamp, the Nigerian developers organized a second bootcamp in order to focus on one of their priorities: migrating data from several legacy system to Nigeria MRS. Their Talk posts about data migration led to a series of exchanges and conference calls with OpenMRS developers in Kenya who are also working on data migration. They tapped into the experience and tools made available on the OpenMRS Wiki and from another local OpenMRS community, eSaude, in Mozambique. Supported by the OpenMRS Community, Nigeria and Kenya held several developer calls to review possible solutions for migrating data from legacy systems, from the eSaude tools to the OpenMRS Spreadsheet module to using JSON to create a new solution. The Kenya team, who made some adaptations to the OpenMRS Spreadsheet Module in order to work in their setting, are starting to see early signs of success with demographic and HIV enrollment data. Both countries are taking important steps towards migrating to OpenMRS – and we’re eager to hear more about their journeys as they implement their solutions. 

This particular journey began with a simple question about getting help from an OpenMRS developer, and yet it shows us a path for making collaboration easier through better coordination at a global level. OpenMRS and CDC plan to continue to explore ways to foster greater cross-country collaboration together, starting with a few countries, such as Nigeria, Kenya, Mozambique, Haiti, and Uganda. Stay tuned!

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