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Leadership in Global Digital Health – A Call to Action

Strategic Dialogue

Programming Partner: The Global Fund


  • Peter Sands opened the Strategic Dialogue citing the positive news of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, commenting on the way that the COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst to accelerate innovation. However, in some countries, the knock-on impact from COVID-19 will be greater than the direct impact, with the fight against HIV, TB, and malaria suffering in particular. 

“There’s no getting away from the fact that we’ve been knocked backwards from the fight against HIV, TB, and malaria. In fact, in some countries, the knock-on impact from COVID-19 will be greater than the direct impact,” Peter Sands

  • As highlighted by Dr. Lia Tadesse, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health has developed an information revolution roadmap as part of a five-year strategy to bring about a fundamental cultural and behavioral change towards the value of health information. Together with partners, the government of Ethiopia has made deliberate investments in digital health over the past five years, encompassing policy, management, financing, and service delivery. Achievements include customizing and implementing the district health information system, which ties into the national health system, with up to a 90% data reporting rate and 80% timeliness of reporting.
  • The importance of data in accelerating progress in the global healthcare space was touched upon by multiple participants. Rajiv Shah shared the Rockefeller Foundation’s work in the U.S., India, Africa, and Latin America during the COVID-19 crisis, in addition to its efforts to enhance access to data-based tools in order to bend the curve of the pandemic. He stated that recent revolutions in digital technology and data must be leveraged in order to improve health security for all. 
  • Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana cited the importance of having a strong health system that can accommodate digital health while also responding to current issues, as opposed to building systems and looking for problems to solve. Ensuring that systems and strategies go hand in hand is key. Discussing the role of civil society in protecting data privacy, Nanjira Sambuli stressed the need to involve young people and women in order to close healthcare gaps and open up access. 
  • Mobile technology has a critical role to play in improving access to health and education services across Africa. As highlighted by Elisabeth Medou Badang, Orange is building partnerships with other organizations to enhance coverage to 80% in the countries in which it operates, and to provide services tailored to the needs of individual health workers of patients. 

“Right now information doesn’t flow—it is locked up in silos and can’t be used to help with diagnostics, helping all of us live better lives across populations,” Gregory Moore

  • The opportunities for digital transformation are limitless. Governments are charting the path towards holistic systems through their investments, but the private sector has a critical role to play in developing preventative solutions that enable low and middle-income countries to grow thriving ecosystems. Gregory Moore emphasized Microsoft’s mission to empower people and organizations, and stressed the importance of leveraging technology to assist healthcare workers on the front lines to deliver quality care. Further exploring the power of the private sector in scaling up initiatives, Michael Froman commented on Mastercard’s attitude towards inclusive growth within the digital economy, stating that five years ago the company committed to bring 500 million people into the financial system.
  • Commenting on the need for cross-border cooperation, Ahmed Ogwell Ouma stressed the importance of engaging with leaders, policymakers, and financiers in order to adopt a proactive approach to implementing preparedness efforts through digital tools.

“Now more than ever, it is important that people are connected to the digital economy,” Michael Froman

Key takeaways & next steps:

  • The Global Fund, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, is launching a $25 million joint investment that will go live in January 2021 and is focused on accelerating the impact of interventions to fight infectious diseases. 
  • Emergency preparedness response relies on data and systems. Ahead of outbreaks, it’s crucial that we have a national strategy in place. During outbreaks, it’s crucial that we provide access to health data to those health workers who need it. 
  • In widening digital systems, we must be careful not to create new inequalities.
  • Greater cross-sector collaboration in digital health is vital to increase health security for all and tackle the world’s greatest health challenges. 
  • Countries need to be at the center of digital health innovation, with full engagement of the three arms of the health ecosystem—public, private, and civil society. 
  • COVID-19 presents an opportunity to accelerate the effectiveness of health information systems, supply chains, and build the capacity of community health—not only to fight COVID-19, but also existing diseases that kill millions every year, as well as prepare for future pandemics. 


Session Speakers