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What do you observe about mobile phones when you travel in Africa and Asia? It's not just that everybody is on their mobile phone; they are on their mobile phones all the time, messaging their way through their day. Capitalizing on this fast-spreading communication technology in the developing world, PEPFAR's latest foray into a private-public partnership to move information up and down the health service delivery chain is commendable. With the announcement at the 3GSM Congress on mobile communications in Barcelona this week, we learn that:

The "Phones-for-Health" project will use software loaded on to a standard Motorola handset to allow care workers in the field to enter critical health information into a central database in real time. It will be transmitted using a standard GPRS mobile connection or, where this is not available, via an SMS channel..."The explosive spread of mobile phone networks across the developing world has created a unique opportunity to significantly transform how countries can tackle global health challenges," World Health Organization Assistant Director-General Howard Zucker said.

This is indeed an opportunity for PEPFAR to maximize its success and make faster progress towards its 2-7-10 goals by improving information systems for HIV/AIDS programs. This short term program's success won't have a lasting impact unless an information system is established in a way that assists a country to monitor and manage its own health service delivery systems. We have much to look forward to as this wireless partnership rolls out in 10 PEPFAR focus countries and I'll be watching www.pepfar.gov to learn more about how the information is moving (direction and speed), the quality of data obtained, and how the data are being used effectively to improve the delivery of health services and measure longer term success.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.