Digital health tools can and have been used to make healthcare systems more efficient and increase the quality of care to patients, strengthening the overall health system. However, at times they have had the opposite effect, further fragmenting care systems, overburdening healthcare workers, and contributing to the problem of “pilotitis”. This is when tools are deployed only to pilot without much thought on how to develop the human, technical, and financial capacity to scale them further.
Here at UNICEF, along with our partners Digital Square and GIZ, we have been working on reviewing and analyzing the digital health ecosystems across multiple countries. The aim is to help governments, UN agencies, and non-profit organizations to have a coordinated and effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of leveraging digital health tools where possible and introducing new ones when necessary. UNICEF’s mapping, funded by WHO, is particularly geared towards helping countries assess readiness to introduce vaccines, identify gaps and opportunities for action, and opportunities for financial support. Nineteen countries have either completed the interview or done the self-assessment questionnaire and five more are ongoing or planned to be mapped in the coming months.
Digital Square, funded by USAID, worked on a similar project, called Map & Match. Phase one of the project collected data from 140 countries through a desk-based literature review. Phase two was implemented in 22 countries and consisted of a deeper look at the tools in those countries that were already deployed and that could be leveraged for the COVID-19 response.
GIZ has developed the Digital Pandemic Preparedness Assessment (DPPA) Tool. The DPPA Tool aims to provide a systematic methodology to identify needs for digital tools that integrate with countries’ existing digital ecosystem while modernizing their overall pandemic preparedness, response, and vaccination roll-out planning and execution. The DPPA integrates and builds on data from the USAID Map and Match project. During the development of the DPPA and Map and Match data collection tool, GIZ and Digital Square aligned on the specific use cases included in the respective tools as well as the data model for the respective assessments.
Through partnering together in these landscape assessments and sharing and building on each other's datasets, UNICEF, Digital Square, and GIZ are enabling governments and organizations to avoid many of the common pitfalls of digital health implementations by providing a robust overview of the digital health ecosystem in a given country and enabling well-informed decision making. Moreover, DICE is leveraging this work to provide technical assistance and recommendations that are well matched with countries' digital health landscape realities. If you want to know more about this work you can watch the Global Digital Development Forum Panel presentation from two weeks ago here and reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.