Notice F2: Shelf readiness with a focus on building local capacity and new teams.

Enhancing the shelf-readiness & scale of the Reveal platform

Two-sentence Overview: 

Reveal is an open-source digital global good that enables country governments and implementing partners to use geospatial data and technology to efficiently and effectively deliver life-saving intervention campaigns. Akros, a cutting-edge organization that has designed and implemented data-driven systems across Africa and Asia, aims to enhance the shelf-readiness and ability of Reveal to effectively scale by:

  1. Enabling over-the-air (OTA) updates to automate software installation, configuration and routine updates 

  2. Improving quality assurance (QA) processes

  3. Strengthening the Reveal community

Executive Summary: 

Akros is a cutting-edge organization that designs and deploys technologically-appropriate systems to improve health in developing countries. Reveal, formerly known as mSpray, was conceptualized by Akros, alongside the Zambia Ministry of Health, in 2010. Reveal has since been developed alongside country governments and implementing partners across ~10 countries to support public health interventions such as indoor residual spraying (IRS) for malaria, mass drug administration (MDA) for neglected tropical diseases, and routine childhood vaccination campaigns of vaccine-preventable illnesses.

Efficient Scalability is the Aim: 

In the past 3 years, Reveal has expanded into a number of new countries and now supports multiple new use cases. With this expansion has come the need for growth in key areas to support scalability -- these areas make up the work packages included in our response: (1) over the air (OTA) updates and ease of download from the Google Play store, (2) Improved and automated QA processes and (3) growth in technical documentation, training resources and community engagement. These key areas will greatly enhance scalability, accessibility to new developers and user groups, and all three fit directly within the priorities of the Reveal roadmap for 2022.

 

Through this award, Akros intends to enhance the shelf-readiness and scale-readiness of Reveal by directing this investment from Digital Square towards three workstreams: (1) providing the ability for over the air (OTA) updates and Google Play Store functionality, (2) through improving quality assurance (QA) processes, and (3) through further expanding and strengthening the resources available to the Reveal community.

  1. OTA Updates and Google Play Store Functionality 

First, we will develop and publish a single application within the Google Play store that includes functionality for OTA updates. A single application with OTA functionality within the Google Play Store will remove the need for multiple Android apps and will enable automatic software updates and thus simplify Reveal’s deployment process, reduce the need for manual user intervention, and reduce burden to the platform’s field implementers.

  1.  Improve QA Processes by adopting an OpenHIE, Automated Testing Framework

Second, we will adopt the OpenHIE testing framework and implement tooling for automated testing of Reveal. The improved QA process will support the Installation Qualification (IQ) and Operational Qualification (OQ) of software validation in both tool and implementation. We envision the QA improvements will equip Reveal to showcase its readiness for safe and effective use. Moving from a manual testing model (current state) to an automated testing model that is robust, comprehensive, and systematic will enhance the effectiveness of software testing, improve efficiency, lower the cost of maintenance, increase the reliability of the product, and build implementer trust that facilitates the re-use of code.

  1. Hardening for Scale: Strengthen the Reveal Community with Expanded Technical Documentation, Training Resources and Community Engagement

Finally, Akros will draft and publish Reveal product information and implementation documentation within its existing Github and Confluence platforms, that are relevant to OTA updates and automated testing. Adding to Reveal’s repository of product information and implementation documentation will further enable new, local teams to build the capacity necessary to effectively deploy and support the ongoing operations of the tool in the field, thus facilitating the scale of the Reveal platform. In doing so, Akros aims to foster an open community that is collaborative, maintains low barriers to access, and contributes to its further development without duplicating existing work.

As one of the first organizations to conceptualize the power of geospatial data and technologies to support field-service delivery, Akros has a wealth of expertise that it will deploy to achieve these goals. Akros combines implementation experts, both international and local, with world-class ICT engineers to produce feasible, practical solutions that host countries can easily maintain. We pride ourselves in our contextual knowledge of the service delivery systems in which we work and our ability to provide novel, lasting solutions, even in low-income settings. Over the past decade, Akros has worked hand-in-hand with ministries of health, local governments, and implementing organizations to dramatically change the culture of data use, augmenting information system workflows to increase the timeliness and utility of data available. These efforts have resulted in national-scale information systems for malaria and WASH surveillance that have fully transitioned to government control. The breadth of Akros’ projects has enabled our teams to establish working relationships in Zambia, Botswana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Senegal, Thailand, and Zimbabwe.

Consortium team: 

Akros is the steward of the open-source platform Reveal, currently chairing the Reveal steering committee and technical subcommittee and coordinating the needs of implementing clients and governments with software development outputs. Akros also provides, as needed, a professional services business model that involves deployment and implementation support to countries and their partner organizations via a translational capacity-building model.

Akros will lead the consortium and proposes to partner with Inspired Testing and Vega IT. Both organizations are already involved in the Reveal stack through current testing activities (Inspired Testing) and ongoing software development activities (Vega IT). Akros will govern these partnerships and lead the design and development of the product, as well as inject its deep expertise on end-user requirements for the use cases Reveal supports. Inspired Testing will lead the development, documentation, and implementation of an automated testing strategy and framework. Vega IT will support the development cycle, participating within the design process and supplementing the Reveal product team with additional capabilities and capacity during the engineering cycle.

Akros’ internal project management system ‘Grow’ will guide the best product and program management practices while the software team and partners will utilize the Atlassian suite of tools. Subcontractor management will be coordinated through Slack and tracked by Jira and Confluence.

Akros

Akros is based both in Lusaka, Zambia and Missoula, Montana (USA) and has been in operation for 12 years since 2008, working in developing country contexts to design data and software solutions to improve the impact of health service delivery. Akros’ roots are in epidemiology and behavioral economics, which means Akros is often on the cutting edge of innovation, designing tools and technology geared towards altering people’s behaviors in data use towards impact. The breadth of Akros’ projects have enabled our teams to establish working relationships in Zambia, Botswana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Senegal, Thailand, and Zimbabwe. As one of the first organizations to conceptualize the power of geospatial technologies in field-service delivery in the most remote of locations in the development context, Akros has a finger on the pulse of what the issues in the field are, and how technology can realistically be applied to solve them. The below experience list demonstrates this.

Past Experience

Experience and duration

Description and relevance

Community Led Total Sanitation Mobile-2-Web

(2013 - 2018)

In water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) Akros revolutionized the way M&E is done in sub-Saharan Africa by supporting the Zambian Ministry of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection to design and roll-out a village level surveillance system that captures live, real-time data and drives information back down to key stakeholders and change agents through robust feedback loops. Community volunteers use the mobile-to-web platform to collect village-level data across 69 rural Zambian districts and one urban district in nine out of Zambia’s ten provinces. The system provides real-time information on uptake of sanitation behaviors and access to clean water. After just three years, the application of the data collected in this system led to over 3 million new users of sanitation and the first open defecation free districts in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2018, Akros fully transitioned ownership of the digital system to the Ministry of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection.

mSpray (2014 - 2018) [Mechanisms: Multiple awards, including USAID Presidents Malaria Initiative Grants]

Akros supported the Zambia National Malaria Elimination Center to improve delivery of one of their key malaria interventions, indoor residual spraying (IRS). The NMEC identified the need for a tool to guide IRS planning, implementation, and monitoring to ensure high spray-coverage at the community level. Akros worked to develop a novel 3-stage approach to map houses across spray areas; use a mobile-based tool (using ODK, OMK, and Ona.io) to guide spray operators to target specific houses; and capture household-level data on achievement of targets. This approach has led to remarkable improvements in the delivery of IRS in Zambia by providing real-time information to inform daily spray campaigns. IRS data between 2013 and 2017 demonstrated a 15% additional decrease in malaria incidence in areas where mSpray was used compared to IRS areas where mSpray was not used. Non-mSpray regions achieved only a 9% reduction in malaria incidence compared to 24% in mSpray regions.

Reveal (2018 - 2021) [Mechanism: Digital Solutions for Malaria Elimination (DSME) Grant].

In 2018, Akros was awarded a grant to take the solution developed through mSpray, and develop a new open-source application that would amplify the capacity of the tool in supporting field operations and better position the solution for scalability across contexts. Akros led the consortium which worked to develop Reveal, through a multi-phased but rapid process. The team balanced user stories gathered from countries across the globe with existing mSpray workflows to identify critical features, functions, and business requirements, and build a software architecture that would be sustainable in the long term. Teams also defined development and implementation processes around the software. In 2019, Reveal was implemented in three countries, across upwards of 300 users. It has now expanded to operate in more than 10 countries and across multiple use cases.

 

Key Personnel 

Dr. Anna Winters is an epidemiologist, and lead of the Reveal team, focused on building infectious disease surveillance and response systems. She currently serves as CEO of Akros, a global public health organization she co-founded. Winters completed her PhD focused on vector-borne infectious disease and, prior to leading Akros, worked within the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Vector-borne Diseases. As the Reveal team lead, Dr. Winters guides strategic direction for Reveal, and thus leads much of the community facing engagement for Reveal and is consulted for any major technical architectural decisions.

 

Mr. Livashan Soobramoney is a Technical Product Manager at Akros with 11 years of experience designing product solutions for a variety of end users and clients. He has worked across a breadth of products and contexts, from corporate banking software solutions to remote monitoring platforms for essential health service delivery in rural settings. He currently is the Technical Product Manager of the Reveal product, where he leads roadmap development, compiles client requirements, and manages development teams to deliver.

 

Mr. Trevlen Bahadur is a Software Architect at Akros with 10 years experience in the Information Technology field. He has experience in software development, business and system analysis and software architecture. He has a background in the banking industry, contact centre technologies, and social media dealing with the design and development of bespoke software. At Akros, Mr. Bahadur is currently responsible for the design and architecture of Reveal and contributes to software development, providing support to the product team in regards to technical software initiatives for Reveal technologies. 

 

Mr. Linda Gcaba is a Software Engineer at Akros with 11 years of experience designing and developing software solutions. He has worked across different industries including telecommunications solutions, investment banking software solutions, research and development in the Internet of things, and remote monitoring of platforms for essential health service delivery in rural settings. He is currently a Software Engineer for the Reveal product where he works on the design, development and support of the solutions.

 

Mr. Reuben Kaponde is the Reveal Product Specialist at Akros with 6 years of experience supporting the implementation and development of different information systems in areas such as public health, community sanitation, malaria and land management. On the Reveal team, he leads quality assurance efforts, compiles user requirements, conducts user training and provides technical support to teams during Reveal implementations.

 

Inspired Testing

Inspired Testing is the specialist testing division of a South African company, Dynamic Technologies Holdings, founded in 1999. The company’s strength lies in knowing how to structure, execute and automate testing. Inspired Testing applies a unique combination of experience, technique, and blended onshore-offshore delivery capabilities to provide expert testing across most platforms, devices, and environments. Inspired Testing provides performance testing services to many different industries ranging from banking and insurance to education, logistics, vehicle tracking, social/non-profit institutions, pharma, and life sciences companies. Inspired Testing has worked with over 100 different clients in locations across South Africa, Europe, Asia, and the UK.

Past Experience

Experience

Description and relevance

Performance testing of an insurance pricing system

The client, one of the largest private insurance companies in South Africa, was aiming to upgrade their core insurance pricing system that is the backbone of their insurance book. The performance of the system could not degrade as part of the upgrade. The upgrade was further complicated by moving from physical hardware to a virtualized environment. Inspired Testing developed the performance testing scripts and provided a managed performance testing service utilizing the Neoload performance testing tools as well as SOAP and Progress tools.

Automated testing of  medical referral system

Inspired Testing is helping the innovative team at Vula Mobile to provide quality medical care to rural and remote patients, with a range of software testing and test automation services for a smartphone app, which is used by healthcare workers in rural areas. After an initial consultation that mapped out what Vula Mobile needed, the Inspired Testing team set up automated test scripts for the software in the development environment, and since then, Vula Mobile has been able to quickly and effectively diagnose any performance or functionality issues before those issues   impact their users.

 

Key Personnel

Mr. Dylan Luis is the Performance Team Lead, and is a test professional with more than 3 years relevant QA experience, working across different roles from QA tester to Performance Testing Team Lead. 

Mr. Irshaad Samaai and Mr. Tomek Zawitowski are all dedicated Performance Test Analysts, each with  at least 2 years of experience working with Inspired Testing and its parent company. 

The scope of the load testing is finite, and this team is expected to manage the work between and across themselves. As the performance team lead, Mr. Luis can tap into additional Inspired Testing resources if necessary.

Vega IT

Vega IT is a Serbian organization focused on providing flexible, scalable software solutions. Founded in 2008, the company has developed enterprise-ready solutions for more than 150 clients across Europe, the UK, and USA. In 2019, the company was the recipient of a Deloitte Fast 500 Award, an objective industry ranking that recognizes the fastest-growing technology companies in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa during the past four years. The organization currently houses approximately 400 engineers which may be utilized for specific project requests. They are technology agnostic and focus on providing sustainable solutions. Akros and Vega IT currently work together with 2-4 VegaIT engineers intimately familiar with the Reveal stack.

Past Experience

Experience

Description and relevance

Mobile Application Development

VegaIT has extensive expertise in iOS, Android and Hybrid app development and recognizes that mobile application development is an integral part of the modern day success. Vega IT’s highly qualified team of IT professionals understand there is no “one-size-fits-all” software development solution and strives to create software solutions designed specifically for the task at hand. VegaIT’s mobile app expertise and current familiarity of the Reveal stack advantageously positions them to support OTA functionality updates through the development and publishing of a single application within the Google Play store.

Building a scalable and extensible healthcare platform

VegaIT was asked to build a scalable platform that gives healthcare patients access to online, virtual consultations with doctors. Using a wide array of technologies, Vega IT’s team, which for this project consisted of four mobile developers and 6 back-end developers, designed a web platform and associated iOS and Android mobile applications for patients to book and have online consultations with easy patient record access. The updated platform supports heavy loads, allows for easy maintenance, and is readily extensible. 

 

Key Personnel

 

Mr. Boris Siman is a software developer with Vega IT. He has over six years of software development experience, three of which were spent at Vega IT. Having worked with a broad range of clients, Mr. Siman brings extensive experience developing solutions catered to unique contexts, clients and tasks.

 

Mr. Milan Katic is a part of Vega IT’s Software Development team. Mr. Katic is one of Vega IT’s software developers who is already deeply familiar with the Reveal stack. He brings high quality, context-driven software solutions to his partners. 

(CVs in Appendix) 

Project Description: 

Background

Reveal is an open-source digital platform and approved “Global Good” that supports the delivery of health intervention campaigns through real-time alignment of geospatial targets with health service field operations. Reveal combines a web-based tool that facilitates detailed planning by field managers and a mobile tool that guides front-line health workers through highly interactive, self-navigating digital maps down to the household level.

Since its conception in 2010, Reveal has made significant progress towards shelf-readiness. Of note is work achieved through the Digital Square E0 grant (awarded to Akros in 2019), which has lowered the barrier involved in setting up the Reveal platform. Under this award, and through 2020/2021, Akros worked to both build and broadly engage the growing community in the Reveal roadmap. We have drafted technical documentation and will achieve open health information exchange (OpenHIE) architecture for packaging and deployment, execute load testing, and demonstrate compliance with OpenHIE interoperability workflows and standards. 

However, the platform, while stable and with a robust feature set, is not yet fully shelf-ready. It remains somewhat dependent on engineering for routine upgrades and deployments and uses a manual QA process for each deployment. An evaluation against the Global Goods Maturity Model (GGMM) and the shelf-ready framework thus revealed several gaps in the context of Software Productization, as well as the Installation Qualification (IQ) and Operational Qualification (OQ) of software validation.

These gaps have also been validated through a qualitative survey to Reveal implementing partners and government stakeholders (Q3 2021) -- all of whom are active participants of the Reveal community. Stakeholders indicated they continue to be engaged and excited to see Reveal expand geographically and support new use cases. Stakeholders also indicated their interest seeing Reveal advance its configuration to allow for a more straightforward deployment as well as update process.

Objectives & Activities

Work Package 1: Over-the-air (OTA) Updates

The objective of work package 1 is to provide the functionality that enables OTA updates. A single application published within the Google Play store will remove the need for multiple Android apps per use case. A significant benefit of this approach is that it will enable automatic software updates to users, which will significantly simplify the deployment process. This automation is especially important given the rural nature of many of Reveal deployments; instead, with OTA, Reveal users will greatly benefit from the simple download of new updates versus dealing with manual processes across many users to enable necessary updates.

The Akros product team, alongside VegaIT, will conduct an analysis and define an approach for a suitable OTA solution to be implemented. The team will then develop logic within the Reveal platform to facilitate the OTA objective, followed by rigorous QA testing. The product will be delivered using an agile approach. A product backlog will be maintained within Jira during the lifecycle of this project.   

Work Package 2: Improved QA Processes

The objective of work package 2 is to improve the entire QA process by implementing a Test Automation framework within the Reveal build pipeline. The Akros product team, alongside Inspired Testing, will conduct an analysis and present a proposal for a suitable framework to be implemented. The team will then develop the automation framework and embed it within the Reveal build pipeline.

Work Package 3: Community Support

The objective of work package 3 is to enable new, local teams to build the necessary capacity to effectively deploy and support the ongoing operations of the tool in the field. To achieve this objective, Akros will 1) draft product information and implementation documentation relevant to OTA updates and the Test Automation Framework; 2) publish this content for community feedback; and 3) publish the updated, final versions within its existing Github and Confluence platforms for the benefit of the Reveal community. 

Deliverables and schedule

Work Package

Deliverables

 

Deliverable Timeline (2022)

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

1. Over-the-air Updates

Proposal/Design documentation

X      

Over-the-Air update capability 

    X  

2. Improved QA Processes

Proposal/Design documentation

X      

QA automation framework

    X  

3. Community Support

Draft documentation package

    X  

Final documentation package 

      X

 

Risk Mitigation

Development projects involve complex concepts where the level of effort and time to completion is often under-predicted. We plan to mitigate this by doing as detailed scoping as possible at project inception during Q1. We will also value each development item so that we can plan to complete the highest priority items with absolute certainty, and aim to complete lower priority items if time avails. All partners will be included in defining this value. We also have partnered with VegaIT and Inspired Testing to buffer each other's bottlenecks.

Another risk is coordinating these groups. Fortunately, we have already onboarded VegaIT for a separate project, and have used Inspired Testing previously as well -- so this onboarding will be much quicker for this new project. We will also work to align all parties through the Akros Product Manager, who leads biweekly scrums and biannual in-person meetings of developer leads. Finally, Reveal is governed by a Steering Committee and Technical Sub-committee, both of which will be routinely consulted and updated throughout the lifecycle of this project. 

Application Status: 
Pending Review & Investment

Comments

Thank you for the concept note. For the full technical application, in addition to general recommendations per the email, please include more information on plans related to scalability.