Twine is a data collection application for refugee camps worldwide.
Gnucoop is a small company of young and dynamic individuals based in Milan, Italy. The company develops free, open software and sustainable technological solutions to improve the effectiveness of projects in various humanitarian sectors. In its most recent project (and biggest to date), Gnucoop is collaborating with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to redesign the health information system of the organisation’s refugee camps around the world.
Gnucoop applies user-centred design methods and uses open-source software to develop applications for supporting the current and future refugee crises, focusing particularly on the potential of data.
For decades, UNHCR collected health information data from refugee camp health facilities through its main web application, Twine. However, this data collection system lacked uniformity—data was collected using different tools, ranging from spreadsheets to mobile forms to paper. Therefore, Gnucoop designed the “NewTwine”, a mobile and web-based application that allows for consistent and uniform data collection.
The objective of the application is to collect medical, nutritional, as well as water and sanitation information in refugee camps. Doctors in health facilities first screen patients using an offline digital form and synchronise data once a week when an internet connection is available. The synchronised data is sent to the web application, which then aggregates and extracts data into key indicators that allow UNHCR to monitor various health activities.
Since the project began in 2016, Gnucoop has piloted the application in 5 countries: Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Zambia. This is a crucial phase, given Gnucoop’s commitment to user-centred design. The team went on six missions to visit the camps to fully understand the context of each place and receive continuous, direct feedback from users of the application. As a result, this new application improved the quality of data collected, as well as the speed at which data is processed. Although the project has only been implemented in refugee camps in the developing context, Gnucoop foresees the possibility of future application in the European context due to the European refugee crisis. The system Gnucoop developed is capable of being applied to any type of project and context.
One of the biggest challenges the team faced is the fact that each location is unique, thus making the analysis of context a crucial, ongoing process in the development of the solution. With projects like NewTwine, generalisation is not the right approach and the team quickly learned that they must always have someone directly on the field to monitor progress. As Paola Fava, program manager at Gnucoop, says, “The tool is just a tool, but you need people around the tool that can control, manage, and engage directly with the actors.”