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June 16, 1997


India's village health workers to use Apple Newton PDAs

Health workers in Ajmer will no longer be the same as the high-tech bug has made their monotonous task of writing records simple.

These health workers, who move door to door to record the health parameters of villages, will now be proud owners of a palmtop computer that will enable them to record the details accurately and later download the information at health centres they are attached to.

The project, taken up by the state-owned CMC Limited with World Bank assistance, is being implemented on a pilot basis in Ajmer and will later be enlarged to other states, CMC executive director for systems integration S Kapoor has said.

Working out the project from its base in Hyderabad, the India Development Centre of the CMC joined hands with the Advanced Technology Group of Apple Computers to conduct joint research in pervasive computing with specific reference to the use of Newton (personal digital assistant) for health care workers.

Kapoor said the CMC wants to expand the project to other parts of the state as its methodology is simple and it can be easily operated by the health workers who were not well educated.

The palmtop computers have icons superscribed and the health workers have to just touch the necessary icons that would automatically record the details on health particulars of the rural village, he added.

He said in the near future these health workers could also utilise the palmtop computers and relay the information to their base stations through modern communication systems.

The development would definitely help revolutionise the health information system of rural India, he added.

Kapoor said the Andhra Pradesh government has shown interest in the system. With necessary financial assistance forthcoming, the system could help obtain accurate health details about villages. The CMC is also looking for voluntary agencies and external aid agencies to expand the system, he added.

Kapoor, who was in the city recently in connection with the computerisation of the Fourth National Games, said though the project is not as gigantic as the Afro-Asian games for which the CMC had provided the necessary computer back-up, the software package had to be customised to include special feature of the games.

Nine new modules had to be created for games such as equestrian, archery, canoeing, kayaking, badminton, water polo, fencing, triathlon, handball and kho kho.

Stating that the CMC had now a full system that could handle any games in the country, he said Manipur Chief Minister Reishing Keising, who was in the city to receive the Indian Olympic Association to hoist the flag at the next games to be held in his state, saw a demonstration of the CMC system at the games village.

Kapoor said the CMC had also taken up a project called Suchana Sagar to empower rural population through information. It is aimed at exploiting computer and communications technology to build and provide information services to rural population with the participation of non-governmental organisations. A pilot project would be taken up covering sites in Maharashtra, he added.

The CMC, which has provided the online computer training system for the Bombay Stock Exchange, has now received an offer from the Bangladesh for provision of a similar system.

Another major research and development project the CMC has taken up is to computerise the power distribution system. So far, it had taken up only distribution of major transmission systems.

After two years of development, the project has recently been implemented in Jaipur. The CMC provided the necessary hardware and software for 13 substations in Jaipur, he said.


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