After Dominic Nyamboga steps out of his truck and unloads a bale of lifesaving insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) at a primary school in Mara Region, Tanzania, he takes out his cell phone to confirm the GPS coordinates of his current location. Nyamboga is a transporter with the Tanzanian logistics company Simba Logistics and Equipment Supplies, and his company’s mobile app informs him how many ITNs should be delivered. Nyamboga enters the quantity delivered into the app, as well as the name and contact information of the receiving personnel. The status of the delivery is automatically sent to a central, cloud-based database, which can be accessed remotely to monitor deliveries in real time by the staff of Simba Logistics and VectorWorks, the President’s Malaria Initiative-funded project implementing ITN distribution to schools with the Tanzanian government.
In 2016, VectorWorks contracted Simba Logistics to help scale up distribution of ITNs to schools through the Tanzanian government’s School Net Program. Simba Logistics uses a mobile phone and web-based system to ensure that ITNs are delivered to the right locations in the right quantities. Noela Kisoka, the director of field implementation for VectorWorks Tanzania, said that it is “very complex to add all the [paper] invoices to get the total quantities that were issued. [With this system] you just export it, sum it up, it’s faster. And you don’t have to wait until the distribution exercise has been completed for the distributer to submit back the paper documents.” Not only does this make the entire process faster, it also increases accountability, as any discrepancies can be traced to exactly where they occurred in the supply chain. Kisoka elaborated, “They know that we are watching them. We are logging into the system. So in case of any concern, [we can see] the information in real time.”
The School Net Program distributes free ITNs to schoolchildren to prevent malaria. In 2016, VectorWorks expanded the annual program from three regions in southern Tanzania to four additional regions in the north, for a total of seven regions. Over 1 million ITNs were distributed over the span of just a few weeks. With this scale-up, there was a need to streamline operations and increase efficiency of work operations.
Aside from increasing accountability and the speed at which information is obtained, partnering with Simba has also reduced the amount of time that the government and VectorWorks staff spend coordinating deliveries. Prior to delivery, the computerized system automatically sends pre-delivery notifications to ward education coordinators, who supervise two to six schools in each ward. This information includes when ITNs will arrive, how many ITNs each school will receive, and a reminder that a representative should be available to receive the ITNs at the specified time of delivery. The ward education coordinators are then responsible for communicating these notifications to the heads of schools. Similarly, upon completion of delivery, the system sends an automatic post-delivery notification through SMS. Using a mobile system also reduces transcription errors that arise when people transfer paper records to a digital database.
VectorWorks’ partnership with Simba Logistics demonstrates how the public and private sectors can work together and incorporate mobile technology to streamline operations, decrease staff burden, and ensure timely documentation and accountability. VectorWorks’ partnership with Simba Logistics has helped ensure the successful scale-up of the School Net Program.
Julia Lo is a Global Health Fellow at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health working with VectorWorks Tanzania.
VectorWorks is a five-year global malaria prevention project funded by the President’s Malaria Initiative. The School Net Program is being implemented by the PMI-funded VectorWorks project, led by Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs with Population Services International. For more information on the VectorWorks program in Tanzania, visit https://www.vector-works.org/countries-2/tanzania/