First in June 2007 and then from October 2007 with a planned wrap up in July 2008, Babak Fakhamzadeh was and is in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to build and extend the IT capacity of Health & Development Networks (HDN).
Here’s what HDN has to say for itself:
Health & Development Networks (HDN) is a leading facilitator of information, dialogue and advocacy approaches on HIV and TB. Established as an Irish non-profit organization in 1998 and as a Thai Foundation in 2003, HDN is known for its independent role in ensuring civil society perspectives, priorities and needs are given the attention they deserve.
Initially, work was focussed on upgrading the HDN website, creating an environment more in line with today’s expectations.
Besides a visual rebranding in line with the organization’s new visual identity, online environments were created, allowing for direct distribution by staff of news, publications, events and photos.
Focus was, mostly however, on two important tools which HDN deploys to disseminate information on TB and HIV/AIDS. The first is TheCorrespondent.org, a place where Key Correspondents (KCs), comparable to citizen journalists, are given a soapbox to air their views and experiences.
The second platform is HealthDev.org, an online interface for a typical collection of classic mailing lists, all on certain aspects of TB and/or HIV/AIDS. Over the past ten years or so, using the underlying list manager software, HDN has built an extensive network of over 20.000 subscribers, many of them participants, to these mailing lists.
The result of this focus was a new platform which is set to replace both TheCorrespondent.org and HealthDev.org. HealthDev.net is, in many ways, a Digg clone (actually more a Plime clone) with dashes of Newsvine and Facebook thrown in. Literally a social news network.
In effect, users can post their own news, comment and vote and edit other people’s postings. The immediate advantages of HealthDev.net are as follows:
- Content driven: Interesting news ‘floats’ to the top of the frontpage.
- Strong user interaction: (Any and all) users decide what articles are interesting.
- Highly customizable: Users can stay up to date on very specific subjects without the need of sifting through unrelated information.
The last point above is particularly interesting as through a very extensive and highly customizable collection of RSS feeds users can easily stay up to date on just the subjects they’re interested in.
The next six months, from January to July 2008, will be spent on deploying HealthDev.net throughout HDN’s network of country-specific partners and eForum users. A network of, literally, many thousands of users.
To all the techies out there, the point of HealthDev.net is not to build a state of the art technological solution, hence the absence of, say, OpenID and many sophisticated features. This is not because these features won’t, eventually, benefit the end users, but simply because the technological jump which existing users have to make needs to be cushioned to get as many users on board as possible. Then, over time and if required, the feature set can be expanded.