He never thought of himself as an iPad app developer; nor an innovative exhibit planner. Now he is both.
D’Souza led the development and release of the NLM Free iPad app Native Voices: Native Peoples’ Concepts of Health and Illness, a cost-saving IT innovation and citizens service mechanism that employs the recently released Shared Services and Digital strategies.
The app builds on an exhibit at the NLM in Bethesda, Maryland — the world’s largest medical library and a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — that features video interviews with tribal elders, healers and other prominent people who practice traditional medicine, Western medicine or a combination of both.
“We chose iPads as kiosk computers for the exhibition floor for the exhibit,” said D’Souza. “Traditional exhibition floors use computers with touch screens as opposed to using iPads. The iPad is simpler and cost-wise better for labor and equipment. It’s a much better deal,” D’Souza said. “People who came to the show saw the iPad and thought it was great and since it is on the iPad they asked ‘why can’t we take it with us?’”
He added: “We said we are going to have many exhibitions; this is not going to be the first one or the only one. So why don’t we build the app based on the concept of ‘build once and repurpose multiple times’.”
What makes the app different, D’Souza said, is it’s built for content delivery over the network, with a rendering engine built into the app. D’Souza said this offers flexibility to change content on the server side and have it automatically show up on the iPad. Unlike the traditional app development process, this eliminates the need for a developer to recode the app for updates and the need to download updates for the app.
D’Souza said development took four months, but only three to four weeks of actual programming. The rest was spent getting agreement among stakeholders.
“This is a cost effective way of delivering an app and content to an iPad,” he said. “Especially since it is high multimedia content and takes up a lot of storage on an iPad.”
The use of iPads saves money through minimized labor costs, D’Souza said, noting that the NLM budget is almost 90% percent is labor. He added: “We saved on both equipment and labor, because managing a PC environment is much more expensive than an iPad.”
D’Souza said the most cost-savings comes from the fact that the app was built once and can be repurposed multiple times.
“We are always looking for people who are interested in using the app the way it has been developed and others who are interested in repurposing the app for their own use. We are supporting the Shared Services Strategy of the federal CIO,” he said. “All of this is part of the goal of trying to support that initiative and build accordingly to save the (federal) government money.”
Dr. Jean-Luc Neptune, Senior Vice President of Health 2.0, said the strategy is simple and makes sense.
“We have observed a similar phenomenon in the challenge programs we have been running, Dr. Neptune told Breaking Gov.
He said teams are often working on different challenges that have different themes.
Health 2.0 is in the midst of a two year contract from the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to run up to 30 innovation competitions on behalf of the federal government over a two year period.
“Teams have developed a core technology such as a data storage technology or data management technology,” Neptune said. “They build the platform once and then modify — often very simply –to get ready for a new competition and new challenge.”