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Posts from the ‘Updates’ Category

Saying Goodbye is Bitter Sweet

Eight years ago, I wrote the original concept note for what would become LMMS. At that time, the solution envisaged was one of using “robust” mobile devices. These were pre-smartphone clunkers (what we affectionately termed a ‘brick’). The thinking was to design a software system on these bricks that would help emergency responders deal with the complexities from rapid onset emergencies to slower, protracted crises.

As it turned out, the first few years of our work was completely preoccupied with the nuances of slow onset disasters. With the support of WV’s Food Programming teams, we carved a space to work on an innovative solution that soon proved itself useful for field practitioners within World Vision and beyond. Over the last number of years, we have since grown that software to new heights: a brand new client-base comprised of multiple humanitarian agencies; a diverse user group including rapid emergency staff who handle human displacements, earthquakes, typhoons and other such responses; the capability to implement cash and electronic credit transfers in addition to managing the dispersal of traditional relief aid items; the capability to leverage modern technological advancements from cheaper smartphone devices to Cloud-based infrastructure for deploying centralized versions of the system, …

Today, LMMS is being used in urban and rural contexts, in refugee camps and in more settled communities. The system is being used under a variety of architectures ranging from multiple remote server deployments to consolidated servers being used by multiple agencies and local governments working together – a reality that at times, is hard to believe. In the coming weeks, one major international NGO, outside of World Vision, will be formally announcing their global adoption of LMMS across their various country operations. I’ll be monitoring the news feeds for the official word, but by the time the formal announcements are made, I will have moved on to new projects outside of World Vision and LMMS.

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Plugging into the Net

In this posting I would like to give you a wee update on our efforts to make available single country servers for each agency that uses the system.

Recall that the gist is to get access to a centralized server. If you followed a previous posting you know that we’ve had successful trials in getting access to such a just such a cloud server working.

For a subsequent trial we went into a part of Kenya that has horrific cellular coverage. Perfect for testing whether the field teams are comfortable configuring and using slightly more involved technologies.

The test Cloud server for Kenya has been running since we established it a few months ago. It’s purring like a kitten. We just need to empower field staff to be able to connect to the purring kitten.

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Version Upgrade – Wot’s In It?

LMMS’ers – listen up! Upgrades to the server and mobile applications are being packaged as we speak. Get ready for production deployments. The Product Dev team have the applications neatly organized and we’ve been communicating to a number of the tech support field guys on what’s required to complete the upgrades. Let me also note a few new things beyond the software. You will also be receiving a new acknowledgement form that needs to be completed after the upgrades have been applied. This will list the upgrades performed against servers and acknowledge the operating versions in the field.

You will also find a massive, completely rewritten user manual – fully annotated with screen shots and walk through on using the application.  Remember as well that you also practice using the applications using the online demo server that has been set up for y’all (LINK to demo server). The demo server always has the latest release running and in many cases, even some of the newer features that we are working on but that are not in official releases.

With the upgrade release a number of suggested operating practices are being provided with respect to good practices associated with sharing personal beneficiary data. Please, please, please take a read of the suggested guidelines that I posted last night here (LINK to Data Sharing).

The version release brings together all the work we show cased under Sprint 3 earlier (see this LINK to sprint 3). It also includes the work we completed under Sprints 4 and 5. We showcased Sprints 4 and 5’s functionality to the community just over a week ago. There was a bit of feedback from those sessions that we wanted to incorporate in this release. This posting recaps information we presented in the last set of reviews. Also included in this posting are the User Acceptance Test results that you may find interesting.

Enjoy the reading and happy LMMS’ing when you get the upgrades. Remember to connect with the Product Development team and let us know how the applications are running and any observations about how to make things better (code, user manuals, our fashion sense)!

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That term needs to enter the vernacular of every aid worker. On Friday 23rd May, at 6:42 PM here in Kuala Lumpur, I logged on and witnessed a live distribution of items run by World Vision in a small corner of Kenya (Thavu in the division of Kathonzweni in Makueni).

This innocent sounding activity is the culmination of … well, I can’t tell you how much work.

Over the last year, we have been slogging away to create an alternative architecture for how LMMS can be taken to the next level … infrastructure, architecture, security, more web services, and deployment methodologies to quickly scale systems for World Vision using Amazon Web Services. This is cutting edge stuff!

Essentially, if a World Vision country office or a field operation team is assured of Internet connectivity, we knew that we could help empower them to access one single LMMS server to perform all their operational needs. Just needed some time and some money to do it. Now if your eyes have glazed over. Unglaze ‘em! Seriously this is a BIG deal. It can mean fewer expenses on hardware costs (maintenance, replacements etc), it can a mean a small centralized tech team to do the backend set up for you, it can simplify your field staff lives, it can mean one step consolidation of data for you. It could also mean sharing that data with other stakeholders if that’s deemed cool.

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Sprint 3 Review: The Export-Import Business

Can I tell you how much I sprint reviews? A lot. Working with fields practitioners always takes me to a happy place. Sprint reviews are those special sessions where we host real-life users of the system (from all over the world – this session had people from Niger, Canada, Lebanon, Kenya, Malaysia, Philippines and the UK, representing Oxfam, CRS, WorldVision, and Medair) to showcase actual working software. No PowerPoints (hallelujah!), no screen shots – just actual, delicious, ooey-gooey working code!  We picked up a number of volunteers from the Manila event (see here) and last Thursday we went through the latest additions to the code base.  I’d like to take this opportunity to recap what we presented and to inform the broader community of LMME’ers (and those who are just generally interested) on Sprint 3’s features.

Since there was quite a bit of information presented, grab a cuppa, get comfy and read on. In tonight’s posting, I’d like to start by introducing you to the export capability of household data from our systems.

So I hear you saying “export shhmecport Jay – why would anyone want to export data?”

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Next Sprint Update


At the end of March we had an awesome time with field users from Oxfam, World Vision and Medair. Downtown Manila never experienced a Buy-a-Software-Feature session, quite like it! There were a few stragglers from UN OCHA and Save with us (most there just to make sure that we behaved ourselves :-) … and to tell us all about cash programming. This said, I did notice a little bit of envy emanating from these non-LMMS’ers. FYI to those laggards – I know a guy who’ll sell the software to ya for peanuts – call me).

What was the scoop for this session? Read more

CAR: Complex, Insecure & Using IT Systems

A year has passed since an alliance of insurgents known as the Seleka stormed the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR) and seized power in an armed struggle. The period since has witnessed horrendous violent atrocities including extreme inter-communal violence made even worse following the withdrawal of the Seleka from the capital in January of this year. Mob mentality, often tied to religious affiliations, has resulted in rapes, murder, torture, the abduction and recruitment of children by armed groups, pillage and the destruction of property (including razing entire villages).

The scale of the emergency is immense:

  • Humanitarian agencies are estimating over 2.5 million people have been affected and are in need of humanitarian assistance.
  • OCHA estimates that 20% of the population (almost 1 million people) have been displaced, with over 585,000 displaced internally within the CAR and another 356,000 as refugees in neighboring countries (as of May 02 2014).
  • UNICEF has reported that the number of children being treated for severe acute malnutrition at the Bangui Pediatric Hospital has tripled since the beginning of this year. Many more are expected to become malnourished in the coming months.

In this context, aid workers struggle to bring humanitarian intervention to the vulnerable communities. Read more

Agency Training On ‘Roids

“Makes our work more efficient, operations more transparent, will empower field staff, will help us do more & faster – just amazing! Also it is actually quite intuitive & user-friendly!” Participant comment from a shortened LMMS workshop in the UK with Oxfam & Medair.

LMMS has been designed for aid workers who perform their job activities in remote, often off-the-grid field locations. The operational needs of these staff have been analyzed to look at ways in which we can help them to become more efficient in organizing and performing humanitarian work. The result of that analytical work is software that has been designed for better registering of beneficiaries and improved delivery of humanitarian services associated with aid distributions to people affected by disasters. Individuals who are active users of LMMS are typically field staff (hence the “Last Mile” in LMMS). This said, our efforts to work with agencies that are newer to LMMS, will often bring in people whose work isn’t necessarily field-based. Many of these individuals will work at an NGO’s headquarters and may be somewhat removed from how this IT system can be applied to field operations. That makes things tricky as we come together to work  on the goals of doing better humanitarian work through technology.

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World Vision and ThoughtWorks

World Vision’s Last Mile Mobile Solutions development team is pleased to announce our partnering agreement with an industry leading Agile software development organization called ThoughtWorks.

ThoughtWorks describes itself as a software company and a community of passionate, purpose-led individuals. Our early indications are that “ThoughtWorkers” certainly live up to their reputation as “disruptive thinkers delivering technology solutions against the toughest challenges, while … creating positive social change”.

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Sprint Review – A Recap From Tuesday Night!

This past Tuesday we hosted a fantastic sprint review session for users! The Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs division of World Vision was there, along with people from Zimbabwe and Kenya. Niger’s representative unfortunately had connection problems (perhaps this posting will make up for them not being able to make it).

This review showcased a number of features that we have been working on for the upcoming major release of the both the Server and Mobile Client applications. I’ll be posting updates on each of the sprint reviews that we do on this site as a way to share with readers of this blog, the working code that we demoed during these sessions.

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