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Tech Collective: The digital solution for improving healthcare systems
GFO issue 433

Tech Collective: The digital solution for improving healthcare systems


George Njenga

Article Type:

Article Number: 6

The Tech Collective, started by Rockefeller Foundation and backed by the Global Fund and major technology companies, leverages data and technology to improve global health systems. It promotes informed decision-making through quality data sourcing and management. Notably, it has spurred digital health transformation with initiatives like the Rwanda Health Analytics Platform. As it expands, it continues to increase its worldwide impact.

Data are some of the most valuable assets of this generation; with the correct data, you can identify a problem, analyze its root cause, and accurately address it. In this digital era, the power of technology continues to show its strength as a force that can drive transformative change in any sector at scale. This is true for the data acquisition and information system space.

New support for data collection and use

Resulting from private sector innovation discussions launched during the Sixth Replenishment, the Global Fund has partnered with The Rockefeller Foundation to set up the Data Science Catalytic Fund. This aims to accelerate the use of data science and by doing so improve community health in low-income countries through the Tech Collective, a growing consortium of technology giants. Its role is to reinforce efficient quality health data acquisition methods and innovative community health information systems. Data that are manually collected can be challenging to sort, process and disseminate accurately due to the high volume of data entries and errors in inputting data, hence the need to improve health data collection and analysis. Tech Collective uses innovative, technological solutions to create effective systems that can be used by decision-makers, healthcare providers, and local communities to inform their healthcare strategies.

The Tech Collective’s purpose is to:

  • Ensure that quality data are sourced at all levels, especially from community healthcare.
  • Deliver access to data via better data management and integrated systems at community, national and regional levels.
  • Provide analytics that will facilitate insights and inform decision-making at all levels.
  • Support healthcare workers’ (HCWs) and managers’ responses to public health threats through the ready availability of up-to-date, reliable data.

Tech Collective aims to achieve two main outcomes; (i) accelerated digital health transformation and (ii) strengthened data collection to accelerate disease surveillance and epidemic prevention. The strategies in place to achieve this include: supporting innovative data collection through technology to improve community health, developing integrated health information systems and analytic engines and dashboards, building the capacity of HCWs and decision-makers on data usage, and supporting the development and deployment at scale of digital tools and content that can be freely used across countries.

John Fairhurst, the head of Private Sector Engagement at the Global Fund, gave a snapshot of how the Global Fund works with the Tech Collective on a podcast about innovation and aid in Africa, ‘Aid, Evolved’, on 9 May 2023. He highlighted that through the Tech Collective the Global Fund essentially provides “needs-based technology” to solve problems in places that do not have an efficient healthcare data system, especially for people in remote areas. He mentioned the example of the use of information analytics to target search areas and find people with tuberculosis (TB). This methodology has proved to be effective at identifying disease hotspots, supporting patients, and mitigating the spread of the disease, cementing the importance of the Tech Collectives’ function.

Data Science Catalytic Fund

The Global Fund and its tech partners have had an invaluable opportunity to test different partnership approaches, implementation, and funding models. To improve the collection and use of community health data in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda, the Global Fund launched the aforementioned Data Science Catalytic Fund (DSCF). The DSCF helps national health systems access accurate, high-quality data from urban, rural and, especially, hard-to-reach communities to ensure that all population groups are adequately and correctly reflected. One of DSF’s objectives is to improve community health information systems and the efficiency of health responses through leveraging digital technology.

Digital Health Impact Accelerator

To increase its impact, in December 2022 together with private sector partners the Global Fund launched another fund, the Digital Health Impact Accelerator (DHIA), during the Africa Health Tech Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. According to The Global Fund, the aim of the DHIA is “to accelerate countries’ digital health transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa.” With the support of Tech Collective this $50 million catalytic investment is expected to expand and scale up digital health solutions such as improved internet access, increased use of mobile technologies, patient-centric digital tools, and strengthened information systems for data sharing. DHIA will support countries by building capacity in data and technology-enabled innovations that strengthen African health systems.

A good example of tech in Africa comes from Rwanda. Zenysis, a Global Fund partner and a founding member of the Tech Collective, has collaborated with the Rwandan Ministry of Health through its implementing agency, the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), to assist the government to make better data-driven decisions. Supported by the Global Fund, Zenysis and RBC built the Rwanda Health Analytics Platform (RHAP), which addresses the problems experienced by a fragmented data ecosystem when collecting vast amounts of data. RHAP is a data integration and analytics platform that integrates, harmonizes, and triangulates data from 13 separate data sources/information systems. RHAP makes decision-making easy through intuitive tools and dashboards, powered by advanced analytical tools. An analysis of the data demonstrates that the use of RHAP has led to improved service delivery and reduced data quality issues, and today the platform is the government’s core analytical platform for the health sector.

The technical partners working together in Tech Collective provide technical advice and assistance to the Ministries of Health to simplify and improve data collection and dissemination. Creating systems that give healthcare practitioners access to quality and timely data can be game-changing when it comes to responding to and controlling disease outbreaks and building back post-pandemics.

Tech Collective is increasing its membership and in turn its collective power of technology, resources, and private sector capacity to deliver results. As the implementing and technical partner to find and implement innovative solutions, Tech Collective will leverage the opportunities presented by the Global Fund’s cross-sector partners including governments, private sector funders, and implementing partners within the Tech Collective consortium. The pooling of investments dedicated to enhancing digital health will provide more opportunities for Tech Collective to improve digital health initiatives at community, national, and regional levels.

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