Questions for Kayode Odusote

This interview is one in a series introducing the people of iHRIS to the global iHRIS community. To nominate someone to be featured, please leave a reply below.

Kayode Odusote is regional HRIS advisor to CapacityPlus. He promotes the use of iHRIS for health-workforce development and planning in Africa in general and in the West Africa region in particular. He is also the chief executive officer of Foundation for Sustainable Health Development, an NGO in Nigeria, which uses information and communications technology to support and strengthen health systems and to improve healthcare service delivery.

Interview by Adam Gori

Where are you from? I am a Nigerian, trained as a medical doctor with a specialization in neurology.  I’ve always been interested in computer systems, from way back in the early days of DOS and Fortran computer language. This has made it easy for me to understand iHRIS and to promote it.

KayodePortraitForBlogAt what age were you exposed to computers, and how?  My first contact with computers was at the University of Ibadan back in the mid-60s, in the days of mainframe. There were no personal computers, no desktops, no disks. We used punch cards to enter data into the mainframe computer of the university. The Department of Computer Sciences had a computer, and students were encouraged to form a computer society. Friends in the department invited me to join – I think I was about 21 years old then. My first personal computer was a luggable computer. I might have been mistaken for a tailor, because it looked like a sewing machine.

How did you get involved with iHRIS?  When I was director of human resources development at the West African Health Organization (WAHO), we observed that none of the West African countries had a functional human resources information system. In the search for an effective, affordable and sustainable system, I came across iHRIS and wound up supervising a pilot test of the application in the northern region of Ghana.

Tell me about the pilot program.  It was done with technical support from CapacityPlus. WAHO provided the financial support. The team consisted of IT specialists from the Ministry of Health in Accra and members of the human-resources unit of the Ghana Health Service in Tamale, Northern Ghana. We collected information from 2,445 health workers in the Northern Region of Ghana. The iHRIS application proved to be easy to implement, easy to use and adaptable for managing human-resources information of the Ministry of Health. That’s what we were looking for.

How did you first hear about iHRIS?  I first heard about iHRIS in 2007 at a meeting of the World Health Organization in the African Region (WHO/AFRO). A representative of the CapacityProject mentioned that they were using an open-source HRIS application for tracking human-resources information in some East African countries. I found the address of the iHRIS website, demoed the application, liked what I saw, and was able to download it. Later I was able to get a live CD of iHRIS from an IntraHealth representative. The CD made it easier to test and to demonstrate the application to others without needing internet connectivity.

Why do you do this work?  In spite of the efforts of global actors in the past eight or more years, many African countries have not solved their health workforce crises. I believe good planning and monitoring of implementation, using a tool like iHRIS, is needed to solve the crisis.

What’s the most frustrating part of your work?  Inadequate political support for the deployment of iHRIS, mainly because policymakers rarely use credible data and evidence for decision- and policy making. Associated with this is the inadequate funding for establishing and maintaining the system.  Information is not seen as an important cost center by governments in the region, so budgetary provisions are not made for it. Where budgetary provision is made, it is one of the items to be cut when there is a funding deficit.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?  The willingness and enthusiasm of the few IT staff in the ministries and health institutions to learn and use iHRIS. For instance, in Mali, the enthusiasm of the director of human resources – he used his goodwill and personal contacts to initiate the implementation and was actively involved in every step of the initial phase. It’s people like him, with a sense of mission and goodwill, who can make such a huge difference in the region.

What are your greatest successes?  I am still waiting to achieve a great success in the promotion of iHRIS in the region. All the implementations I have been involved in are progressing satisfactorily, but I would not consider any a great success until every health worker’s information in the country is in the system, and when accurate information of the national health workforce can be retrieved at the touch of a button by the highest authority in a ministry or any institution.

Where have you seen the most impact so far?  The most impact has been in Togo, where government officials can access information in the iHRIS system through the intranet. However, because of connectivity issues, the regional offices are unable to access or use the system at present. Its use is limited to the central level at the Ministry’s headquarters.

What would you most like readers to know about you? About your work?  About me? I am a champion for the use of modern information technologies to strengthen health systems in developing countries, with the ultimate goal of good health for all. I would like readers to know that in spite of infrastructural and financial challenges, it is possible to use modern technologies to make systems in developing countries more effective, more efficient and sustainable.

What has been the highlight of your time doing this work?  That might be the adoption of iHRIS by the directors of Human Resources for Health at the Ministries of Health in ECOWAS countries. They adopted iHRIS after receiving the report of the pilot program in the Northern Region of Ghana, and for me that does seem like a major achievement.

Where do you want iHRIS to go?  First, we need greater promotion and advocacy to encourage more countries to use iHRIS – to use it as the tool to store and to analyze health-workforce information. And beyond that, to use it to develop, plan and implement the health workforce. Then iHRIS should be used for management of the health workforce, including recruitment, promotions, in-service training, performance monitoring and retirement. This should be based on the HR management system of the particular country. Finally it should be linked up with other systems in the ministry, especially the health information management system and the financial information system.

Anything you want to add?  The use of evidence-based decision-making is paramount if we are to achieve the goal of a better health workforce and better health coverage, particularly in the developing countries of Africa. We need to advocate with policymakers and other top officials at ministries of health and related agencies to make this happen. This is not a one-person or one-organization task, but a collective effort from all of us involved in helping countries to strengthen their health systems. A strong multinational and multifaceted iHRIS community could be the nucleus for such an advocacy drive.