In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, governments, donors, and NGOs are all working to understand what digital technologies could be deployed for contract tracing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19 outbreaks. These users want to understand what tools are being used and where. They want insight into which software products are best suited to address specific use cases. Unfortunately, there was very little data of this type to be found.
The lack of information about digital tools and where they are being used is a significant problem in technology for development (T4D). However, several platforms have been created to provide critical information to governments, donors, and other global development actors about digital technologies. These platforms can help organizations discover tools that can be used for pandemic response, as well as for many other use cases. They provide vital data about what products are being used and where:
- The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Digital Health Atlas is used by governments, donors, and implementers to visualize the deployment of digital health technologies around the world.
- The Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) Catalog of Digital Solutions is a portal developed to support governments and donors in the discovery and evaluation of digital technologies across sectors, and shows how these tools align with the SDG Digital Investment Framework.
One of the primary challenges in developing portals like these is that information is very hard to aggregate and maintain. In the T4D ecosystem, when we do find data about the deployments of technologies, the data is often presented in a PDF document or spreadsheet which is not machine-readable. We also find data represented with different formats or using different terminology.
Over the past months, the Digital Health Atlas team at WHO has worked with the DIAL team to develop better ways to share information between their respective platforms. We are pleased to announce that data from the Digital Health Atlas is now included in the DIAL Catalog, and the Catalog provides links back to the projects in the Atlas. Updates to the Atlas will be automatically reflected in the DIAL Catalog.
Why is this important?
WHO and DIAL, along with other partners such as Digital Public Goods Alliance and Digital Square are all working to help development actors leverage technology that will improve the lives of millions of people. By creating tools that allow us to share information more effectively, we reduce fragmentation and replication of efforts. With more data, we can better show where investments should be made and where the gaps in the ecosystem are.
This first integration between two platforms is a small but significant step. It provides value to the T4D ecosystem in several important ways:
- The Atlas and Catalog provide unique insights on common data. These tools have different goals and different users but share much of the same underlying data. By sharing information between platforms, we provide broader datasets to the users of each.
- It helps keep data up to date. As data is added or updated in one portal, those changes are reflected on the other platform. Users of both platforms benefit from having access to the latest information about projects.
- Sharing data helps us align our terminology and taxonomies. We are able to develop common schemas and develop mappings from one system to the other. We continue to work to define shared definitions and data structures that will help users of either platform to understand what the data means.
- It encourages other actors to share their data. By providing a tangible example of data sharing and public APIs, we can urge other organizations and platforms to expose their data in a similar way. Exposing data in a machine-readable format allows others to easily use and contribute to that data.
It’s our hope that this integration will provide value to the users of the Digital Health Atlas and DIAL Catalog of Digital Solutions. And we hope that it is a first step toward having more data available for governments and organizations who need it.
For additional information on how to use and interact with the Digital Health Atlas or Catalog of Digital Solutions, please contact us:
- Digital Health Atlas team: email@example.com
- DIAL Catalog team: firstname.lastname@example.org