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USAID Mission Guidance for COVID-19 Digital Response Solutions

By Wayan Vota on April 6, 2020

usaid covid response

Information is critical to COVID-19 Digital Response. Decision makers need detailed and timely data about the coronavirus disease spread. Health workers and communities need access to truthful information to protect themselves and their loved ones.

However, responding to a public health emergency requires a multitude of actors from health and development institutions, emergency response, and humanitarian organizations. COVID-19 has already attracted billions in new funding and many new partners both at the local and international level.

Each of these actors bring their own ways of collecting, sharing, and using data, and many of them bring new technology. Not all are familiar with each other. Nearly all require mobile or internet connectivity.

Digital Response Lessons Learned

This was apparent during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa – the underlying technical, institutional, and human systems and processes required to gather, analyze, and use data were not robust enough to support a timely response. There was an unclear and asynchronous picture of the disease’s spread, and a “fog of information” generated by more than 50 digital data systems in the affected countries.

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USAID and its implementing partners have learned a lot since then. We must look for ways that technology can amplify local efforts, not usurp them. Critically, we now aim to ensure that:

  • Country governments are in the driver’s seat from the beginning.
  • We all advance locally led and whole-of-government approach and coordinate related initiatives.
  • We establish data protocols, reuse existing digital tools, and work with the private sector.

USAID COVID-19 Response Guidance

Please refer to USAID COVID-19 Digital Response Guidance (PDF) for steps that you can take to increase institutional readiness to prevent, detect, and respond to COVID-19, and its effects. The guidance answers three common response questions:

1. What can be done today?​ Now is the time to get a handle on what exists: what resources exist at USAID Missions? With implementing partners? What local assets and systems already exist that host country institutions can access and trust?

2. What can be done this week? Now is the time to reach out to government counterparts, private sector, and other donors to contribute to a coordinated response. Understand opportunities and risks, and work together to support across sectors.

3. What can be done this month? Now is the time to address critical gaps and adapt as the situation changes.

Most items in the USAID COVID-19 Digital Response Guidance do not require USAID contract modifications. They can prepare Missions and implementing partners to develop a COVID-19 Digital Response that is grounded in the local context and successful over time.

COVID-19 Digital Response Resources

Digital health technology will be integral to COVID-19 digital response by donors, government, and health systems in low- and middle income countries. We developed several resources of potential solutions:

Technologists, we need your ideas to build a truly comprehensive list of possible digital health solutions. Governments, donors, and implementers, check out the full list of 110+ potential solutions for coronavirus response.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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3 Comments to “USAID Mission Guidance for COVID-19 Digital Response Solutions”

  1. Agatha wawira says:

    USAID plans are good and should be implemented immediately

  2. Jessica Murcia says:

    I think is relevant not only to consider health IT tools but to think on solutions that can be adapted to different sectors. We work agroculture which has been vital during COVID. Farmers are still producing and working for us to be able to get food to our homes. And it has been achallenge to keep supporting them with improvimg productivity, have access to inputs, access to markets. Most of them dont have access to internet so SMS campaigns have been sueful but we need to have more private sector on board and democratize more the aceess to technology

  3. Rosemary Foster says:

    A brilliant example of a rapid digital health COVID response success story is to be found in the Western Cape of South Africa. Here the ability to capture cases and contacts has been built into non-proprietary software that also provides the clinical user with an integrated patient view that links health data from more than twenty sources for millions of patients. Clinicians can see laboratory test results and prescribed medications at a glance and also whether cases have other current or past disease episodes. This tool, referred to as SPV or OpenIHP, has become the Western Cape Department of Health’s official tool for capturing COVID data in the province and also the source for reporting on COVID. This work is led by Professor Andrew Boulle from the University of Cape Town’s School of Public Health and Family Medicine (Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research)..