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:
- 3 Early Digital Health COVID-19 Response Success Stories
- 10 Digital Health Technology Solutions for Global COVID Response
- 10 Global Digital Health Solutions for Coronavirus Response
- 7 Artificial Intelligence Applications to Contain COVID-19
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.