Students create software for Ghana

Source: Cameron Harp
Richard Fry, an assistant professor at WSU, talks on his cell phone while on a recent trip to Ghana.

This spring break will mark the third time students from the computer science department at Weber State University will visit and provide computer hardware, software and training to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in the Republic of Ghana, Africa. Three years ago, Richard Fry, assistant professor of computer science, accompanied the respiratory therapy department on its trip to Korle Bu. Initially, he was invited to set up computers for the people there, but then saw a bigger vision.

Along with his students, Fry developed an open source “electronic health care system” to help the hospital keep track of their patient, accounting, billing and statistics records.

For the last two years, the students have been visiting the people of Ghana over their spring break and teaching them how to use the electronic health care system. When they are back at WSU, they are building and expanding the program to better suit the needs of the hospital.

This time, they have been building a hotel reservation system that they will introduce to Ghanaians during their upcoming visit. Fry said communication can be difficult because of the remoteness and limited amount of power and technology that are present in Ghana.

“I have been over there eight times in the last two years to keep up communications and strengthen the relationships we have built,” said Fry.

Another program the students are working on is an inventory and asset management software for both long-term and short-term assets of Korle Bu Hospital.

This new program will arrive in Ghana this spring and they will begin to teach the staff and implement this new program. Jenifer Sneddon is a senior who will be regulating the inventory and asset management software team in Ghana. She has watched what has been going on in Ghana since the beginning, as it was her sister, Lisa Trujillo, the director of clinical education at WSU, who began the program seven years ago.

“I am so excited to finally be going over there,” Sneddon said. “I have heard so many great experiences, and I look forward to being able to contribute while at the same time doing something I love.”

The students have also had opportunities to provide humanitarian services while they are there. Brandon Chinn, a senior who will be leading the team in Ogden while Fry is in Ghana over the spring break, was able to collect $2,500 worth of soccer equipment and cash to fund a soccer team of orphaned children in Ghana called the Charity Stars. The team provides the children a way to receive an education and be adopted by families.

“This is an incredible experience and was a tremendous amount of fun,” Chinn said. “This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am glad I was able to be a part of it.”

Each subsequent trip has added to the success of the program.

“We keep learning more each time we visit, and the relationships we are building continue to grow stronger and we find other ways that we can contribute,” Fry said.

The upcoming trip is scheduled for March 7-21.

“We are always looking for new ways to help the people from Ghana, and we hope that we can get some students from other disciplines to join us and see how their knowledge can help this wonderful country,” Fry said.