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Seeing the World as a Network – Rob Allen

by on November 24, 2015

Rob_AllenToday we are meeting Rob Allen, who is part of our informatics team in the South Africa Associate Award.  Normally, I would take the information sent to me and fashion it into 2-3 paragraphs. In this instance Rob sent it already in that form, so I am going to just pass on to you what he sent to me. It will give you a bit of an insight into his skill at organizing thoughts and communicating clearly.


I was born and raised in the South West of England. Having always been interested in puzzles, and solving math problems, I studied mathematics at university and started training for an actuarial career before switching to software development. I took on a number of roles over the next few years including business analyst, system designer, DBA and project manager until I realized that my true interest lay in how information and communication networks can be used for civic empowerment. This was partly due to my experience of working on some of the earliest systems which linked the Internet with the mobile phone networks and partly due to a two-year voluntary service overseas (VSO) placement in South Africa which aimed to build the IT capacity of NGOs fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

During that placement, I got married and decided stay in South Africa and when the placement ended I continued working with a number of NGOs on their IT projects. About this time, South Africa was experiencing an exponential increase in cell phone ownership and use, and a number of managers started asking how they could use cell phones in their work. This led to some successful proposals to funding organisations and we were able to implement some projects which added to an ever-growing list of mHealth pilot projects.

The MEASURE Evaluation Strategic Information for South Africa project was started soon after National Department of Health started to look into how it could coordinate mHealth in the country and bring projects to scale. As the mHealth/eHealth advisor for the project I have been fortunate to assist the National Department of Health to pull together its new mHealth Strategy. I have also been providing some support to the department’s MomConnect project which has registered over 500 000 pregnant women during the past year. MomConnect provides messaging and feedback channels which allow women to effectively monitor and report on their health service experience. The other impressive feature of MomConnect is that it has been built to be inter-operable with other initiatives, which opens many exciting ways that it can grow in the future.

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