Morgan, Comfort, and members of Kamuzu Central Hospital Microbiology Dept.

Why Malawi?

When people learn the AppHatchery’s software development team is based in Malawi, often the next question is why Malawi???

The short answer is that I have a personal connection to Malawi from previous work.

But the longer answer is more interesting and shows how groups across country lines can support each other.

In the summer of 2018 I joined Dr. Gerry Douglas in Lilongwe, Malawi for a summer in an attempt to build a new product to solve a problem he saw in the microbiology laboratory. Together we hired a team of young engineers from a local university called Daeyang University to prototype and build an automated device to read and interpret antibiotic sensitivity tests. The Open Antimicrobial Resistance (OpenAMR) project was born.

During the work, I often heard the stories of individuals who recently graduated from universities in Malawi with computer science or Information and Communication Technology (ICT) degrees but could not find work in their field. The graduates often took positions as data entry clerks. By mid 2019 I was running out of money to support the project and had failed to convince funders that OpenAMR was a viable business beyond a small National Science Foundation grant. I closed the project and put it on the shelf.

Fast forward to 2020 when I joined Emory’s newly launched AppHatchery program to build mobile apps and digital health products for clinical research within the Georgia Clinical and Transnational Science Alliance (CTSA). The program had many people asking for app projects to be built but we lacked a robust team of developers to handle the volume of projects.

I remembered all the conversations I had with Malawi graduates and the difficulty of finding positions in software development. I wondered how could I support both the AppHatchery AND these students? Could I build capacity for the CTSA while building computer science capacity in Malawi?

Starting with a single software developer, Comfort Mwalija, the AppHatchery Malawi team was born!

The team has now grown to 4 full time software developers working at our partner institution The Global Health Informatics Institute (GHII) and supported both by the Georgia CTSA and funding from individual projects. This tremendous team has created 10+ mobile apps for university clients in Atlanta and Georgia.

We continue to grow together, offering training programs, internships and full time positions to new graduate software developers in Malawi while simultaneously supporting clinical and transnational research within the state of Georgia.

Morgan Greenleaf | March 29 2024