Maintaining a digital legacy: Nand Wadhwani, The Mother and Child Health and Education Trust, and HealthPhone

30 August, 2021

Warmest greetings from Hong Kong. As a new member of HIFA, I'd welcome thoughts on a topic that has both a hypothetical and a real-life or practical dimension: how do we ensure continuity of our work, and that of colleagues, following an unexpected or sudden disruption or death?

For many of us, work is now highly tech-based and digital with storage of the information or data we create, and work itself, often being siloed or stored behind passwords more than shared, such that much resides in the hands of one individual. So what happens when, unexpectedly, such an individual becomes unavailable, whether as a result of illness, death or another eventuality? How can we prepare for and ensure continuity of work - and achieve continuity after such an interruption?

This hypothetical scenario and question regarding disaster preparedness and recovery takes a very real application with regard to former HIFA member and steering committee member Nand Wadhwani who sadly, and unexpectedly, passed away a few months ago. He leaves behind a massive legacy in the form of his health and nutrition information websites, video library and apps - and a big question mark about the continuity of that legacy.

A little background first: Retiring early from a senior position with IBM, Nand launched himself full-time into health education in 1997 when he founded Rehydration Project - http://rehydrate.org/ - and Health Education to Villages - http://hetv.org/ - which focused on helping educate health practitioners and parents of small children about the proper management of acute diarrhoea. The project taught them that diarrhoea can be prevented by breastfeeding, by immunising all children against measles, by using latrines, by keeping food and water clean, by washing hands (the child's as well) before touching food and by making Oral Rehydration Therapy known and available and putting that knowledge directly into the hands of parents who need it. In 2009 he established The Mother and Child Health and Education Trust, a charity registered in Hong Kong, the aim of which was to make use of communications technologies that facilitate the flow of knowledge to rural low- middle-income families, delivering information to educate, motivate, empower and inspire communities around better health and nutrition practices.

A year later, and as mobile phone technology began to become more affordable and widespread, the Trust launched a major new initiative called HealthPhone, which used mobile phones to advance health education and make it available directly to the people who need it most. HealthPhone is an illiterate-friendly mobile phone video library with preloaded, reliable, contextually-appropriate, relevant health and nutrition knowledge. Using rich multimedia, HealthPhone puts life-saving and life-changing content, scripted on knowledge prepared jointly by UNICEF, WHO, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNDP, UNAIDS, WFP and The World Bank, directly in the hands of those who can use it in an accessible format and with 24x7 availability, everywhere. The collection of videos developed into a library of some 2,500 videos extending to 78 languages. In 2015, in India, he launched the world's largest video-on-mobile nutrition education programme for mothers and families.

Nand created dedicated YouTube channels for the Trust and HealthPhone and the videos on them have been viewed over 85 million times while the Trust's websites have also attracted many millions of visits. He also created mobile phone apps available for download on PlayStore.

I was a co-founder of the Trust with Nand but after he relocated to Canada, we closed the Trust as he intended there to be a successor non-profit in the USA but this has not worked out with the result that the websites and other resources that Nand so carefully built up over the years are in need of a new custodian. At its simplest level, this would involve providing a home for these resources and handling the related administration such as maintaining the domains and website hosting just to preserve the status quo of the existing websites, videos and apps. There would be some cost involved in annual domain and hosting fees but these would not be significant and it should be possible to arrange funding, at least for a few years. If someone were so minded, there is clearly potential to take things further and update and/or build on the existing resources and materials which have significant web and social media visibility.

For an overview of the main resources that Nand compiled, please see:

http://www.motherchildtrust.org/

http://www.healthphone.org/

http://iap.healthphone.org/

https://www.youtube.com/c/HealthphoneOrg/featured

https://play.google.com/store/search?q=HealthPhone%20MobileSeva

It would be a great loss if all these resources were to go offline and so if you can help in any way, or have any suggestions, please contact me at chris@chrisdrake.org. I should also be grateful for any general guidance and advice on how to maintain a digital legacy. Many thanks!

HIFA profile: Chris Drake co-founded the Mother and Child Health and Education Trust and is based in Hong Kong. chris AT chrisdrake.org