By Beshan Kulapala
The untold success story of the software tender for Medicine Supplies Division
We all watched in horror as the COPE committee unraveled the cost of the software tender awarded to EWIS. Rs.677 million they said with a Rs5 million per month maintenance fee for a solution that isn’t working. Another RS 7 billion estimate that was done by the University of Colombo (UCIS). Then the COPE committee chairman called on the IT Industry for help. And we did!
On the evening of June 1st after hearing the call for help, we were already in discussions to understand how a Rs 677 million software tender came together, and how we can get involved to support. By the morning of June 2nd, a call was made to Dr Harsha De Silva, offering our fullest support to help sort this out. I should say the wheels started to turn very quickly. Within maybe 30 mins Dr Harsha had called on the secretary to the Ministry of Health for a high level discussion with members of the IT Industry. I was given the task of bringing together a meeting with like minded fellow industry heads to discuss how we can help the MOH. A few messages on Whastapp, and a bunch of IT heads with various expertise were ready to help.
The Untold Success Story
It so happened that while we were preparing the meeting, we got a lot of information on how and why things went wrong. BUT there was a small section of the Cope meeting that we all had not payed enough attention to. It was this new tender for Rs 100 million that was awarded to replace the existing solution. A tender that was given 2 years to fully complete, with a fraction of the budget, awarded to an up and coming startup, Loons Lab — Headed by Pulani, one of the few female heads of a IT company. We heard they were able to beat the other “traditional” software companies to win the new tender, had completed almost 50% of the work, and is ready to deploy the first stage by August of this year. This is the untold success story that the media should have instead fully focused on; that we should have payed all the attention to.
Meeting with the Secretary Mr Janaka Sri Chandraguptha and his high ranking team went much better than we anticipated. Although at first they weren’t sure what our role really was, we were able to convince them that we there to help, to support and strengthen their digital health cause. We had a fruitful discussion of the current status of their work, plans for the future, and the gaps that they have. All members present from MOH were very appreciative and open to find ways to work together with us. As a next step, a Technical Review Committee will be formed from the IT industry , a set of volunteers with key expertise to review security, infrastructure and data analysis needs.
We are grateful to everyone who supported, took their time to attend numerous meetings through out the last few days. We can only try to get involved, and give our fullest corporation to build solutions that will help increase efficiency, quality and bring down the costs!
*The members present are not part of a formal IT industry body. But a mix of fellow citizens with expertise in various IT fields coming together to help.