Aug 15, 2018; BMC Proceedings. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12919-018-0156-3
The use of digital technologies to improve access to health is gaining momentum in Africa. This is more pertinent with the increasing penetration of mobile phone technology and internet use, and calls for innovative strategies to support implementation of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Health Coverage on the continent. However, the huge potential benefits of digital health to advance health services delivery in Africa is yet to be fully harnessed due to critical challenges such as proliferation of pilot projects, poor coordination, inadequate preparedness of the African health workforce for digital health, lack of interoperability and inadequate sustainable financing, among others. To discuss these challenges and propose the way forward for rapid, cost-effective and sustainable deployment of digital health in Africa, a Digital Health Hub was held in Kigali from 8th to 9th May 2018 under the umbrella of the Transform Africa Summit 2018.
The hub was organized around five thematic areas which explored the status, leadership, innovations, sustainable financing of digital health and its deployment for prevention and control of Non-Communicable Diseases in Africa. It was attended by over 200 participants from Ministries of Health and Information and Communication Technology, Private Sector, Operators, International Organizations, Civil Society and Academia.
The hub concluded that while digital health offers major opportunities for strengthening health systems towards the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals including Universal Health Coverage in Africa, there is need to move from Donor-driven pilot projects to more sustainable and longer term nationally owned programmes to reap its benefits. This would require the use of people-centred approaches which are demand, rather than supply-driven in order to avoid fragmentation and wastage of health resources. Government leadership is also critical in ensuring the availability of an enabling environment including national digital health strategies, regulatory, coordination, sustainable financing mechanisms and building of the necessary partnerships for digital health.
We call on the Smart Africa Secretariat, African Ministries in charge of health, information and communication technology and relevant stakeholders to ensure that the key recommendations of the hub are implemented.