Before the 2014 Global mHealth Forum, if you’d asked me to draft a budget for developing and deploying a mHealth solution, I’d have shrugged and thought, “Sure. Piece of cake.” As a program manager and someone with a fair amount of experience in mHealth, I would have felt confident mapping out a process and assigning a budget to each step. Then, at the Forum, I had the opportunity to attend an interactive session in the Finance Track that made me consider how my personal perspective could affect budgeting. The session, titled “What Does mHealth Really Cost? Understanding the Question,” was presented by Eric Couper of Abt Associates and Jonathan Jackson of Dimagi, Inc. and intended to teach people the importance of preparing a reasonable budget for a mHealth solution. My biggest takeaway was how necessary it is to include many roles and perspectives in the decision-making process.
We were broken up into groups, given a case study of an mHealth intervention in Guatemala, and told to determine a budget for a one-year intervention that moved through the steps of design, development, test, train, and deploy. The staff roles they identified for the activity were an expat project manager, an expat lead designer, a local IT manager, a local trainer, and an expat trainer.