After about nine months of undertaking a scoping exercise of the AT-Info-Map project which involved a series of consultation meetings and workshops with various stakeholders, including suppliers and front-line workers, the project team has leaned quite a number of lessons regarding the AT, particularly in Botswana where the project is being piloted for the initial one year.
The consultations have led to the successful development the version 1 (V1) of the long-awaited mobile application. Consultations continued in November 2016, during which the App was not only presented to various stakeholders but also inputs were still being solicited to help in improving the App in readiness of the V2 expected to be released sometime in February 2017.
The following is a summary of the lessons learned so far:
- Increasing general awareness about AT is a critical component of successful implementation of the AT-Info-Map. AT awareness needs to be manifested at all levels such as at supplier level, central government, community rehabilitation level, hospital level, and general community awareness.
- There is a growing interest in the AT sector from local private suppliers and entrepreneurs. Most of the AT suppliers see AT-Info-Map as a convenient marketing strategy for their AT products, considering that the App will provide contact information and other important details about the suppliers.
- Most people with disabilities currently locate AT through intermediaries within local government, health system (i.e., rehabilitation officers), local disability organizations or NGOs.
- There are no manufacturers of nearly all AT categories in Botswana. The majority of local suppliers order from South African suppliers who are often ordering from other countries in Europe or USA. For this reason, the cost of acquiring AT in Botswana – like many other countries in the region – is generally much higher in the absence of local manufacturers and multiple links in global supply chain.
- Multiple government agencies are involved in AT procurement and provision at national and regional level including Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Motor Vehicle Fund, Office of the President, and Parastatals.
- The findings of the recently published Report on the Study on Living Conditions of Persons with Disabilities in Botswana, confirms what we have learned so far in our series of consultations with various stakeholders. According to the study, the most important source of AT in Botswana is Government. More than half of those who need AT obtain it from Government services, while private sector (suppliers, etc) and NGOs combined together constitute only about 28%.
- The Botswana Government plays a more central role in distribution of ATs than in most other countries in the region. According to the study, the large majority (70.4%) were given AT for free, while 19.2% had bought themselves, and 10.4% reported that someone else bought AT for the person with disability. We believe that the economic status of Botswana, which has a significantly higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP) than most of the countries in the region, could be one of the key factors.
- However, there are teething problems with regards to fragmentation of service delivery of ATs, manifested by substantial gaps in training and maintenance. Most of the DPOs and other stakeholders we have interacted with have bemoaned that there are no – or fewer – service providers in Botswana who can repair ATs when they are broken or order replacement parts.