Independent Assessment of iHRIS First to Apply Principles for Digital Development

IntraHealth International’s iHRIS health workforce information software has undergone the first independent assessment of a major ICT4D (information and communications technology for development) initiative using the Principles for Digital Development, nine living guidelines that are designed to help integrate best practices into technology-enabled programs.

“We did this assessment with a clear mandate to be honest,” says IntraHealth’s director of digital health, Wayan Vota. “We wanted to know where our strengths and weaknesses are, inform how we improve the software, and in line with our open development process, share the results publicly.”

IntraHealth released the first version of iHRIS in 2007. At least 27 countries have adapted the open-source software and are using it to gather and analyze data on their human resources for health. Those data have helped countries better understand and address health workforce challenges—from shortages to maldistributions—so their public health sectors can improve care for more people.

In 2015, a multiyear effort led by the global ICT4D community culminated in the Principles for Digital Development, which are designed to help integrate best practices into technology-enabled programs with guidance for every phase of the project life cycle. USAID led an endorsement campaign that resulted in 54 organizations endorsing the principles in the first year.

As an early endorser of the principles, IntraHealth is proud to be the first organization to use these de facto standards for ICT4D projects to assess a major software project.

“It’s affirming that we were living the ideals behind the principles even before we endorsed them.”

Read the resulting report, iHRIS PDD Evaluation.

The iHRIS team contracted with NPOKI, a consulting group specializing in information management systems, to conduct the assessment. Three focus groups of stakeholders (end users, administrators, and trainers; past and present iHRIS developers; and industry experts) provided feedback and determined the extent to which the suite of iHRIS products adheres to the principles.

For each of the nine principles, iHRIS was assessed on a scale of 1 to 5. Those scores ranged from a low of 3.51 for the principle of using “open standards, open data, open source, and open innovation” to a high of 4.28 for “be data-driven.” The average score was 3.88, or a solid B+.

“The findings and recommendations are a refreshing validation of our internal conversations,” Vota says. “It’s affirming that we were living the ideals behind the principles even before we endorsed them, and we are actively seeking to improve our score with the support of the iHRIS community. We hope that other organizations will use a similar process to evaluate their own projects and ICT4D initiatives.”

Based on the results, the iHRIS team is planning improvements across the areas of functionality, training, communities of practice, documentation, sustainability, and ongoing evaluation.  

This report was produced with funding from the Digital Square Project/PATH under the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.