How to Change a Business Process from Two Years to Five Minutes

How to Change a Business Process from Two Years to Five Minutes . . . and save lives

“The surprising seeds of a big-data revolution in healthcare” is a fitting title for a fantastic example of a “birth” of Big Data. Although the 3Vs of data flow are great proof of the explosion of data in our lives, in this 2014 Ted Talk Joel Selanidio walks through a specific Big Data case demonstrating what standard paper practices can become when the process is reinvented utilizing digital capture[1]. For those who already appreciate Big Data in the world, this Ted Talk is a great lesson for teaching others how it works.

Joel Selanikio has been recognized worldwide for his work with epidemic disaster response, especially with his innovation and inspiration for solving some big problems – like the 2014 Ebola outbreak.

Joel Selanikio explains his problems of medical survey collection in some of the least economically developed countries in the world. He describes that reaching out those without Internet as those “outside the streetlight” The Internet is the streetlight, where simple luminance makes it so things can be found more easily.

It began with his desire to improve his consultation process, which was showing up in country to facilitate paper survey collection or its processing. The method was labor intensive, required his training and a great deal of funding to make even the basics happen. Dr Selanikio is amazingly dedicated to solving healthcare issues worldwide, and he admits to fatigue with data entry. Errors were possible and frequent in collection, transfer and load of paper surveys. (Old school ETL) Money would often run out before the gold of the data could be collected.

His realization was that services such as Hotmail and eventually the suite of social media such as  Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are so simple and so ubiquitous and so FREE that everyone uses them – including the host staff of those he was consulting. If the paper forms were as easy as Twitter, the entire survey capability would upend for the better.

The result is Magpi, which is a cloud-based program to create and upload forms. Like social media, the only requirements are to know about it and to go to the website to use it. No training. No programming. No consulting.

For his case, the forms could now be replicated both identically and instantaneously. The survey process duration changed from two years to five minutes. In the first three years of his work, they collected 1,000 surveys, and in the second year, it was over 14,000.

He ends the talk with giving several examples of Magpi’s use, including a beautiful case of the International Red Cross. Semi-literate mid-wives in Sierra Leone were asked to use the program to report births and deaths weekly. This technology was done with $10 mobile phones, not smart phones. The result is a near real-time system of counting babies in a developing country where it had never been done before.

Like most Big Data capabilities – platforms and tools – Magpi is open source. Anyone can use it for free.

What can YOU do with Big Data and Magpi? What problems can You solve?

[1] Bill Gates wrote the book on this in the 90s, Business @ the Speed of Thought. Awesome recommended reading.