Madagascar explores the promise of digital health
On January 24, 2018, representatives of the Madagascar ministry of health, USAID, implementing partners, and mobile network operators met to discuss ways to enhance health programs through digital approaches at a SHOPS Plus workshop in Antananarivo.
The use of digital solutions to address health challenges, particularly in communication, financing, training, and data collection, is becoming increasingly achievable thanks to the growing infrastructure, accessibility, and use of mobile phones and other technology. Across Africa, mobile technology is transforming how people, even in rural communities, access critical health information and services. While Madagascar has been slower to develop its digital potential, stakeholders in health and development are beginning to explore the its application.
Riding the digital wave
Through plenary sessions and small discussion groups, participants identified digital service priorities and areas for collaboration. The top priority was the collection of data and how information could be integrated into DHIS2 and shared across health programs. The second priority was using mobile technology to better communicate with beneficiaries. The group also expressed interest in using digital technology for supportive supervision and financial services. One example of the latter is the payment of community health agents or other seasonal workers through mobile money. Throughout the day, participants called for additional working groups for each of these priorities to develop more focused action plans. The aims of such plans would be, for example, to identify applications that can collect and share useful data for multiple partners and to aggregate demand for digital services among health implementers to increase bargaining power with mobile network operators. Mobile operators were interested in learning about partnerships in the health sector and they offered commitments to continue working collaboratively to develop mutually-beneficial partnerships.
Building on momentum
As a result of this workshop, mobile operators have reached out to pursue negotiations with USAID and implementing partners. SHOPS Plus will continue to accelerate efforts to use innovative technology to achieve health objectives and will help broker alliances between operators and USAID. To this end, SHOPS Plus will continue to sponsor and coordinate digital health working groups in priority areas.