The world linked by a unified core code base that accelerates society’s development and improves co-operation in crucial business sectors? Seems like a sci-fi dream? Well, yes, probably a bit. However, the latest project by OpenLMIS, which SolDevelo took an active part in, indicates that this fantasy is not so far fetched at all.
In case you haven’t heard yet, OpenLMIS is an initiative supported by an international community of donors, partners, implementers, and developers who all share a common vision. They dream of a world where all countries have the logistics data enabling the effective management of their supply chain. All of this in order to save lives. Sounds good, right? That is why they have designed and developed an Open Logistics Management and Information System (OpenLMIS) tool whose main aim is to improve health commodity distribution in low and middle-income countries.
So far, OpenLMIS has been successfully deployed in nine African countries, such as Angola, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zanzibar (see product’s roadmap). In all those places it helps to administer logistics processes for over 11,000 health facilities. SolDevelo worked on OpenLMIS implementations in Angola and Malawi. Together with VillageReach, a non-profit global health innovator with extensive expertise in health supply chains and logistics, we created a more flexible and extensible core software architecture of OpenLMIS and contributed to the development of localization features and customization appropriate for each country context.
However, the beginnings, as always, were not as bright and promising. OpenLMIS, being a large and diversified software project, was initially subjected to many risks and uncertainties. As new installations were being developed and implemented by the community, it led to a situation where every country was using a slightly different version of the tool. Soon, as could have been expected, a ‘code fork’ occurred. The core code was diverged in different directions and the whole community was lacking a common plan on how to align the various implemented OpenLMIS versions. As a result, teams’ priorities, problems, and measures for success differed as well.
In order to address code-forking, the OpenLMIS community agreed to work toward a common master branch. The idea was that all the countries would be sharing one global, open-source codebase in such a way that all improvements and contributions (such as e.g. new features) made by one country could be used by anyone in the community. In support of the OpenLMIS unification idea, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Digital Square funded the GAP Project. The initiative, planned for the period of 1 year, was perfectly lined up with the community’s ‘shared investment, shared benefit’ philosophy. It was planned as a solution for reducing the code gap for the OpenLMIS v2. deployments in Tanzania and Zambia, with the end goal of creating an upgrade path to OpenLMIS v 3.0.
After the so-called ‘gap analysis’ and identification of feature parodies between the different versions of the software, the GAP project was commenced. SolDevelo, together with 3 other organizations (John Snow Inc., Ona, and VillageReach), put a collaborative effort into bug fixing and adding new features to bridge the identified gap. Thanks to our skilled development team that can boast broad expertise in the complex tools, we extended the system where necessary to meet country-specific needs. At the same time, we did our best to maintain the ability to receive OpenLMIS Core software updates.
SolDevelo greatly contributed to laying the groundwork for future OpenLMIS upgrades to version 3.x in Tanzania and Zambia, delivering the assigned tasks within the set timeframe and budget. The GAP project resulted in completing 22 of all the features identified in the gap analysis. They included the conversion of a requisition to order and subsequent transfer to a warehouse system, integration with the OpenHIE mCSD facility registry and the recreation of many of the original eLMIS reports in the new OpenLMIS reporting system.
Thanks to new features implementation, SolDevelo helped to re-invent the OpenLMIS architecture so that it has a global shared benefit. Now it is a powerful and flexible product that exhibits interoperability and supports customizations and extensions. Additionally, the GAP Project turned out to be an important and beneficial transition in the whole OpenLMIS initiative. Thanks to it, the community realizes the importance of the tool unification and is encouraged to always upgrade to its latest version.