Just over a year ago, scientists around the globe began racing against time to create safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines. The challenge today is to make those vaccines available to people everywhere. The Digital Public Goods Alliance (DPGA) believes that equitable open access to digital public goods and global goods (mature digital public goods) can accelerate the attainment of the sustainable development goals and create a more equitable world. That’s why today we’re excited to share that UNICEF, a DPGA co-founder, and WHO are launching the COVID Digital Health Centre of Excellence (DICE) to provide coordinated technical assistance for scaling the deployment of digital global goods that support COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery.
This work closely aligns with the DPGA’s Health Community of Practice (CoP) which brings experts, including representatives from DICE, together to support the discovery, assessment and advancement of open source technologies with relevance to immunization delivery management. Through these convenings it became even more clear how critical access to digital health global goods are in addressing Covid-19.
Well before the pandemic, countries were making significant strides in their digital transformations. COVID-19 has provided a galvanizing moment to support these efforts, but pandemic responses should utilise the immediate opportunity but with a long-term goal. We must support digital transformations not just for vaccine roll outs, but far beyond COVID-19. DICE accounts for this by providing technical assistance for countries to operationalise their national COVID-19 pandemic response plans, including vaccine deployments, in a way that improves service delivery more broadly, and enables data-based decision making which will strengthen health and immunization information systems.
We are pleased to support DPGA co-host, UNICEF, and the organisations behind DICE as they provide technical assistance that builds strong global digital systems. Read more on DICE below.
A multi-agency COVID Digital Health Centre of Excellence (DICE) co-led by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) launched on April 29th, to provide coordinated technical assistance to national governments and partners on digital health interventions that address health priorities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as post-pandemic health system needs.
The COVID DICE is a consortium of partners, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), GIZ, the US Centre for Disease Control, the European Commission, The Global Fund, The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), the Gavi Alliance, USAID, and the World Bank. It is co-hosted by a UNICEF-WHO virtual secretariat that will be managing day-to-day activities, including coordination with technical partners like Digital Square.
The COVID DICE is currently funded by a donation from the BMGF, and is designed to provide coordinated technical assistance to low- and middle income countries (LMICs) to support sustainable and scalable deployment of carefully chosen mature digital global goods for planning distribution of commodities and vaccines, tracking patients and supplies, surveillance and case detection, monitoring coverage of services, training health workers, and communicating with the general population to generate demand and reduce misinformation.
Although the initiative is currently focused on addressing the immediate needs of the countries in the context of the COVID-19 response, the COVID DICE will also aim to fast track WHO’s Global Digital Health Strategy, thereby laying the foundation for a more comprehensive mechanism for harnessing the power of digital health technologies for overall health systems strengthening, in response to COVID-19 and beyond.
“UNICEF, WHO, and DICE partners are receiving a steady stream of requests for technical support for establishing digital solutions from governments, as they grapple with the unprecedented challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Aboubacar Kampo, UNICEF’s Director of Health. He continued, “the DICE will provide critical coordination and technical assistance to support the pandemic response and vaccine delivery, while balancing this with countries’ long-term vision for strengthening of health systems more broadly.”
As countries are operationalizing their national COVID-19 pandemic response plans, including deployment plans for the COVID-19 vaccines, they are turning to digital health interventions to amplify efforts to improve service delivery, make decisions based on actionable data, and strengthen health and immunization information systems more broadly.
“Countries have already made significant investments in digital health systems, and many of these platforms can be expanded to provide substantial support to COVID-19 vaccine delivery and beyond,” said Bernardo Mariano Junior, Chief Information Officer and the Director of Digital Health and Innovation at WHO. “However, the enabling digital environment in Lower Middle Income Countries is often fragmented and not geared towards the support of large-scale vaccination delivery to the population.”
Carine Gachen from the Gavi Alliance shares this concern: “Poorly designed or inappropriate digital interventions, as well as vertical approaches geared only for COVID-19 vaccines, risk undermining and weakening national health systems. Countries must rapidly assess, identify, adopt, cost, and deploy robust and ready-to-scale digital health solutions to meet the demands as a pivotal preparation step for successful COVID-19 vaccine delivery.”
DICE will initially leverage existing partner capabilities so that it is operational immediately, and will seek additional funding and partnership support to coordinate and scale its ability to meet rapidly growing demand for assistance to select and deploy global goods for the COVID-19 response.
DICE is creating a roster of consultants, volunteers and partner agencies to respond to country requests. Apply to the consultant roster before May 21st 2021. If you would like to get involved or support in other ways, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “SUPPORT” with what services you are able to offer.
The Digital Public Goods Alliance looks forward to working closely with DICE on advancing relevant digital global goods via this exciting initiative.