ITU and the World Health Organization (WHO) have signed a cooperation agreement to launch a joint partnership to scale up the use of digital technologies to strengthen the delivery of public health care services in Africa.
The "Digital Health for Africa" partnership will assist countries in Africa to promote the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the health sector. It will also equip health care workers with digital skills and build the required digital infrastructure, including integrated systems and platforms for providing and scaling up digital health services in a consistent and efficient manner.
"This agreement with WHO signifies ITU's continued commitment to expand its collaboration to bring the benefits of the digital economy to all, especially those in rural and remote areas," says ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. "Digital technologies have the potential to deliver incredible benefits across Africa's public health care system, empowering health workers with new solutions and avenues for disease prevention, care and control and enabling patients access to better health services."
"Through this partnership we have the opportunity to transform how health care is delivered in Africa, and contribute to the attainment of universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals and in particular SDG 3 on good health and wellbeing," said Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT). "In a world where health systems are facing increasing pressure to improve quality, accessibility and affordability, incorporating ICTs in health delivery mechanisms will definitely bring value and break the inequalities that exist in health coverage so that no one is left behind."
"The partnership will tap into smart, cost-effective solutions by harnessing Africa's digital revolution to strengthen health systems, such as health service delivery, medical information, informing and educating communities. Our two organizations are committed to expanding the use of ICTs in health to contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, particularly universal health coverage in Africa," said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
The "Digital Health for Africa" partnership will also bring together several entities including telecommunications operators, financial institutions and ICT companies with the aim of strengthening public-private partnerships to increase the resilience of health systems and improve their services and accessibility through the use of ICTs.
The partnership will enable countries to improve the collection, processing and dissemination of health data and information, thereby improving patient diagnosis and treatment, especially for those in rural and remote areas. Other outcomes of the partnership include strengthened epidemiological surveillance and disease control, lower health care costs and better health care sector management.
It is anticipated that all countries in the Africa region will benefit from this initiative over the 2018-2030 period.