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Digital Health Week 2023: Bridging the gap between governance and technology

We are almost halfway through this year’s Digital Health Week and today, we are diving into conversations about governance and technology: bridging the gap. At D-tree, this is a theme very close to our hearts since we believe so strongly in the power of data and technology to improve the health of all. But we also recognize it has to be done with respect to people’s rights. This is where governance plays an important role.

Zanzibar has made some great progress in this area in the past years and in this blog, we are asking partners and team members in Zanzibar, about why data governance specifically is so important to ensure people receive the right care, at the right place, and at the right time. 

Wahida M. Mabaad, Head of HMIS Unit, Ministry of Health, Zanzibar

Many are looking to Zanzibar for its advancements in health data governance. Tell us a little bit about this work?

Zanzibar has established a comprehensive Data Protection and Sharing Framework to safeguard patient health information and facilitate secure data exchange within and beyond the healthcare sector. This framework ensures the responsible use and protection of client data collected at various health service levels and stored digitally. Other nations could adopt a similar approach to guarantee the confidentiality of personal health data and promote secure information sharing.

In collaboration with relevant stakeholders, we have developed the MOH’s foundational Data Access Guidelines. These guidelines are designed to guarantee a consistent and secure flow of data within and beyond the health system, upholding transparency and accountability.

Additionally, Zanzibar fosters a culture of data utilization at the district level by holding regular discussions, reviewing dashboard analytics, and engaging in action planning and monitoring with District Health Management Teams (DHMTs). This engagement of district and community stakeholders has proven to enhance data utilization effectiveness and acceptance.

Rebecca Distler, AI, Data, and Digital Health Strategist, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation

The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation works to advance AI and data science solutions for public good, including across health systems. Why does health data governance matter to the Foundation and what are the biggest challenges in this area?

In many ways the best AI strategies are – at their core – good data strategies. And the best data strategies are those with strong governance. It’s no secret that the majority of digital health innovations both generate and rely on large amounts of sensitive data, or that the ability to appropriately aggregate data is fundamental to uncovering insights that can improve health outcomes.

Practices and policies that promote data quality, ethical stewardship, and protection create a foundation of trust. Yet, there’s a missing middle when it comes to health data governance. Most interventions are focused either on regulation or high-level policy or are narrowly defined to a single institution. We need more partners like D-Tree, who are working to operationalize data governance policies, at scale, with a focus on ensuring these policies result in improved privacy for patients, more effective data use, and – ultimately – improved health outcomes.

Salama Mossi, Kitope Health Facility, Zanzibar

How is data helping you in providing better care to people and what do you think is needed to strengthen the use and protection of patients’ data in Zanzibar?

Data helps me understand disease trends and provide care for people in my area. Additionally, it supports the planning of vital patient requirements, including medications and medical supplies.

Tracey Li, Senior Data Lead and Abbas Wandella, HMIS advisor

Why is data governance important to us at D-tree?

Technology is increasingly being harnessed to help solve some of humanity’s biggest problems and accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To ensure good health and wellbeing for all, the potential of technology is being exploited to strengthen health systems and improve people’s health outcomes, especially in locations where health systems are under-resourced and weak.

Since digital is part of the solution we offer at D-tree, our programs produce a lot of data and we need to make that the data governance frameworks and practices necessary to ensure that this health data is used in an effective, safe, and fair manner are in place.

If you are interested in partnering with us on this, please get in touch at

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