Some of you may be familiar with my posts here and work elsewhere on population ethics, but before that career turn, my main focus was on early-life health in India, especially rural north India. A team that I helped start has developed a partnership with the Government of Uttar Pradesh to run a Kangaroo Mother Care program to promote neonatal survival in a government hospital. Our best evidence from the statistics we collect is that the program has reduced neonatal mortality by about 25 percentage points, corresponding to preventing more than one neonatal death per week on average for less than $5,000 of costs per average death. This is as cost-effective as the best known projects. Although the project currently exists in only one hospital, there is in principle quite a lot of scope for scale-up. One well-respected EA funding organization has already supported us; another is actively investigating doing so.

A critical bottleneck we have right now is needing better software to track the babies and tell the nurses what to do each day when they change shifts. This is an urgent need for our team.

We have a system. It needs to be better. We would like to hire a software developer to work with us for (probably) six full-time months to improve the existing system. (That is easier than making a new system because the real heroes, the Hindi-speaking nurses from rural Uttar Pradesh, have already learned this software.) Because it will save our program managers time and attention that they can use improving the program and because it will help the nurses better keep track of the babies, we expect that this work will save lives. Our initial thought was to hire somebody in India, but that isn’t a requirement. Knowing Google App Script is! I’ll post our job description below, which includes my email address.

Thanks, everyone, Dean Spears

Recruitment for Software Development 6-Month Contractor

Key skills: Google Apps Script, AppSheet, Google Sheets (including functions, similar to Excel functions), database development, excellent communication

Overview. The Project on Breastfeeding and Newborn Care is a partnership among a large public hospital in Uttar Pradesh, one of India’s poorest states; r.i.c.e., a US-based non-profit; and PHI, an Indian organization. Under the supervision of hospital pediatricians, the Project has expanded and staffed the Kangaroo Care Unit in the hospital with 13 nurse counselors to train families how to care for sick and small babies according to government guidelines. In the months before the program, the one-month mortality rate for babies less than 1800gms was 35%. After the program started, it improved to 10% for all babies under 1800 and 6% for those who stayed at least three days.

Context: We seek a Google AppsScript software developer to improve our existing system

The database of babies participating in the program is largely based on manual manipulations and data entry, and is prone to errors. Errors cost the team a lot of time. Our goal is to improve and automate these systems as soon as possible. This would involve linking data across approximately 50 tabs in GoogleSheets, developing alerts for when information is missing or babies are growing poorly, creating AppSheet apps to link to GoogleSheets that currently manage inventory, and other related tasks. Knowledge of GoogleDocs, GoogleSheets (including GoogleSheets functions, which are similar to Excel functions), and Apps Script (based on Javascript) is needed. (We understand that dedicated database software may have originally been better for the program, but because our staff of nurses without prior computer skills now knows our system, we must keep and improve it.)

Role of the software developer

r.i.c.e./PHI is looking to contract with a software developer to improve the system. The desired improvements have already been catalogued and documented by the team; we need someone to implement them within our existing systems. Part of the job would be making improvements, part would be fixing code other developers have begun, and part would be maintaining existing software. If all these things go well, we’d be excited to work with the same developer on our long term goal of transitioning to a platform more suited for databases, such as, perhaps, Grist or Airtable.

In order to teach us about software development, the developer would be asked to keep a log of her or his hours on various tasks. Time spend keeping the log will be compensated. Good written communication and documentation of barriers/obstacles is essential. Willingness to work some pre-announced hours between 8pm and 11pm IST, in order to work with a US-based advisor, is required. Experienced developers are preferred, in part because there will not be other developers at the organization and you will be reporting to non-developers.

Compensation, expectations, and milestones

We propose to pay competitive professional compensation for six months of full-time work, if the work is completed on time and useable by the project team. We expect to make two contracts. The first will be for an initial trial (paid) of one month. At the conclusion of that first month, we and the contractor will agree on a contract to complete the work. Although our current expectation is that the second contract will be for an additional five months of work (for six months total), we will be open to other thoughtful proposals for the duration of the improvements to the software.

Contact: with the email subject “PHI/rice software development recruitment”. Please send a CV as a PDF attachment and describe your interest in, availability for, and qualifications for this project in the body of the email, in those three sections. Due 1-Sep-2022.





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I am not available for 6 months full time, but I recommend we talk anyway

  • I'm a developer with 14+ years of professional experience. CV
  • I wrote multiple production systems in Google Sheets and Apps Script, this is a strange expertise of mine which somehow finds itself useful.
    • Examples that include Apps Script:
      • Something that helps people coordinate busses from Ukraine
      • 3 systems for our regional Burning Man
      • A system for a client, that allows the creation of charts in Google Slides, using data from an external CRM, presented as a side bar
    • There are many more that don't include apps script


[I'll send this as an email as well]


For what it's worth, I think your intuition of improving the existing system instead of making a new system is probably totally correct.

And if you do go for a new system, I'd specifically consider Monday's nonprofit program.

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