Open Health Networks

Open Health Networks (OHN) is a system that allows individuals to send coded text messages which report the lack of medication, equipment and other concerns. The goal is to increase knowledge of basic, individual health care rights and citizen empowerment and to open up the communication channels between indigenous communities, CEGSS (Centro de Estudios para la Equidad y Gobernanza en los Sistemas de Salud) and the government. OHN was developed as part of the Field Internships in Information Design, more commonly known as the Parsons/Open Society Foundations Fellowship.

Identifying the Challenge

Guatemala has public health care, which means that every citizen should be guaranteed access to the medicine and care that they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, the quality of healthcare may vary due to a number of factors, especially in the rural, indigenous communities. About 40% of Guatemala’s population is indigenous, and about half of these individuals are illiterate. There are 21 recognized Mayan languages, so much of the indigenous population does not speak Spanish. Because of these factors, this population faces social segregation based on location and language. This has led to governmental neglect. Besides issues of discrimination, there is a clear lack of communication between the health facilities in these communities and the government.

CEGSS helps indigenous communities report lack of essential medication and equipment to the government. Prior to OHN, the only way to get information from the health facilities to CEGSS was through paper forms. Because of the cost (monetary and time), the forms could only be filled out four times per year, and a community representative would often need to travel as much as eight hours to hand-deliver the report to CEGSS. With this method, there was no feedback for the community, and the process of replenishing medication and equipment was not efficient. Our job was to simplify and make the inventory reporting process more efficient in order to better meet the needs of the community. The challenge was identified through research, a series of workshops, interviews, and visits to healthcare facilities throughout Guatemala.

The Design Process

  • 🌎

    Field Research

    The fellows attended many workshops with CEGSS and community leaders in Guatemala, who were interviewed about their biggest concerns in their role, daily activities, and technology usage.

  • 📈

    Research Synthesis

    Common barriers, access issues, problems and needs between all the communities were mapped out and identified.

  • 💡


    The ideation phase included various explorations with personas, scenario development and system flows.

  • Design & Development

    Several iterations of a reporting booklet and a corresponding plugin for Ushahidi were designed and developed.

  • Testing & Implementation

    User tests were conducted by the fellows in Guatemala on three occasions throughout the design and development process.

Project Deliverables and Future Plans

As of this time, Ushahidi has announced that they will be moving to a new version (v3.0), but we do not have a lot of information as to what the changes will be or when this will happen.

Due to the possibility that the move to v3.0 could cause problems with our current plugins, we have decided to freeze development on Ushahidi v2.7.

However, we have made a user guide for our plugin for v2.7, and our code is available on gitHub.

Final deliverables for this project include a reporting booklet, our Ushahidi plugin and a documentation guide which includes instructions on how to implement your own system.

Project Documentation

If you would like to implement your own system, you can download the project documentation/plugins below.