CommTrack: A Distribution Management System to Serve the Last Mile

Organization: 
Dimagi, Inc.
Organization Location: 
Cambridge, MA, USA

Urgent shortages of medicines in low-income countries lead to millions of unnecessary deaths at birth every year. One pervasive challenge causing such shortages is how to move the right commodities to the right place on time and at cost. We propose to develop an open-source distribution management system which leverages our existing real-time dataset of stock transactions at thousands of facilities in Africa to drive automated improvements in practice. Specifically, we will make optimal usage of limited resources to improve route planning and scheduling, respond to delivery or cold chain failures, strengthen communication, and reduce inappropriate resource utilization. These tools could save governments hundreds of thousands in the cost of fuel, trucks, drivers, and wasted/lost stock, while also improving reliable access to better quality, life-saving commodities. Current computer-based distribution management systems cannot effectively address the needs of the last mile due to lack of infrastructure. The proliferation of mobile phones recently provides a compelling opportunity to address that gap. We will 1) optimize route planning and scheduling by adapting best-of-breed algorithms and decision-making tools, 2) utilize novel low-cost wireless temperature sensors to respond to cold chain failures, and 3) close the feedback loop by equipping drivers with a GPS-enabled mobile app to digitize the existing delivery audit trail and generate notifications. With richer data available in real time from more locations, our system will significantly improve stock availability while saving resources and improving transparency.

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