The Role of Handheld Devices in Immunizationby Olivier Ronveaux, Technical Officer EPI, WHO For 30 years, paper and pencil have been the dominant form of record keeping in immunization programs through out the world. After all, paper is inexpensive and ubiquitous, functional in case of power-outage, and easy to use. But when it comes to searching for data, crunching numbers, and creating reports, paper systems are almost useless. For many years, immunization programs have considered the merits of moving beyond a paper-based tracking system but have been stymied by a dizzying array of ever-evolving hardware, software, and networking options—none of which were developed with the unique needs and constraints of low- to middle-income countries in mind. Recognizing that these problems are unlikely to disappear, Optimize is approaching information technology with a “systems view,” exploring handheld devices, such as PDAs, cell phones, Smart phones and other technologies, as part of a much broader information technology platform that brings together application, data, devices, and users. There are a variety of potential applications for handheld devices within immunization, including: Supervision.Survey delivery and assessments such as effective vaccines management (EVM), data quality surveys.Equipment management and specifically the cold chain equipment management (CCEM) tool.Supply chain management.Monitoring and reporting.Birth registration. Over the next several years, Optimize will be working with collaborating country partners to explore the ways in which handheld devices can be applied in these areas to streamline the flow of data within a larger information technology platform. We invite you to comment on or post a question relating to this article by clicking the “post reply” button on this page. You will have to log in or register, but the process is very simple.To link back to the Optimize e-newsletter, click here.