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SMS helped check bird flu in Orissa

Govt officials in Orissa say they used the SMS as a tool of communication to help increase transmission speed of alerts and execute the necessary precautionary measures to prevent the spread of bird flu.
IANS | By HT Correspondent, Bhubaneswar
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2008 11:56 AM IST

Sending alerts, monitoring poultry birds and communicating with field staff, Orissa managed it all through the humble SMS, effectively using the messages to prevent the spread of bird flu, which had resulted in the loss of Rs 5 billion in the neighbouring state of West Bengal.

State government officials said they used the SMS as a tool of communication to help increase transmission speed of alerts and execute the necessary precautionary measures.

"We had introduced the 'SMS-based reporting system' in our department a year ago to track the health of livestock and breeding services in the state," said Bishnupada Sethi, director of the state's animal husbandry and veterinary services (AHD), who implemented the system.

Under this system, the officials codified villages and prevailing livestock diseases to source data from about 10,000 officials, including 2,000 veterinary doctors, working across the state.

"The field animal husbandry department staff at the grassroots, who mostly implement activities of the department, carry cell phones. They have been sending us their reports on cell phones at weekly intervals on a particular date, that is, Sunday afternoon, through SMS," Sethi told IANS.

The directorate compiles all the data and the consolidated report is generated by Monday every week for critical analysis and suitable remedial measures by the branch concerned.

During the outbreak of the flu in West Bengal, the government activated this system round-the-clock, he said. "By using the system, we deployed vaccination teams in areas prone to diseases."

"We were collecting reports from the field and on status of birds. Through SMS, we were sending instructions to the field staff."

Citing an example of how effective the system proved, Sethi said the principal secretary of his department sent an SMS from the West Bengal border and the government suspended an official instantly for negligence of duty.

Using the system, the government monitored about a million poultry birds in the villages bordering West Bengal, he said. It is a great tool and is also helping the government monitor the state's 28 million cattle.

The system has reduced the gap between the field functionaries and decision-makers leading to good governance.

The transparency in the system encourages the field staff to communicate openly and a sense of accountability at different level has been established. The feedback from the field staff through their active participation has empowered them, he said.

Though there was some initial resistance at some level, functionaries at different levels have been able to reap the benefits of receiving information for timely action, Sethi added.

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