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Data-driven digital transformation has the power to revolutionise access to vital public services and resources in underserved communities globally.
With the right digital infrastructure in place, governments, organisations, and communities can leverage the potential of many innovations, including open data, digital public goods, and data spaces to boost and transform public services for all.
While data protection is quickly becoming enshrined as a human right in parts of the world, providing the means for access to data must also become an imperative for communities, everywhere.
Looking at the global landscape, we’re already seeing the power of big and open data in numerous areas—from healthcare to open government. More recently, data spaces, which safely permit highly accessible macro data sets for private and public research are emerging as a leading priority for the EU, with officials developing plans to build a global, cross-border data space as unveiled at a recent G7 meeting.
However, accessing the power of data-driven tech is only possible with the right type of digital infrastructure in place.
Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) consists of building blocks like identity and consent frameworks for secure sharing of data and electronic authentication required for modern digital solutions. By doing the heavy lifting, DPI is enabling ecosystem players to focus on solving challenges and building innovative solutions on this common, shared infrastructure.
DPI is helping catalyse innovation, scale tech to improve access, safeguard data, and unlock the value of digital for all. For example, UPI (Unified Payments Interface) in India, a DPI, has heavily transformed the digital payments space, recently crossing the USD 3 trillion valuation and on pace to achieve USD 10 trillion by 2026.
Using data to address health inequalities
We have the technologies to connect people and services like never before. Now we must put them into action.
Comprehensive digital access to public service resources can positively contribute to technical and economic growth, while improving well-being for the world at-large. This is undoubtedly evident in healthcare.
The pandemic served as an important catalyst to highlight the potential of data and emerging digital tools to tackle major healthcare challenges. We have already seen improved disease tracking thanks to electronic medical records, and the enablement of previously impossible remote surgeries through low latency wireless coverage.
While much of the world is on this data driven journey today, ensuring all communities and locations are on board and not left behind is essential. Researchers estimate that up to 3.5 billion people—half the world’s population—still don’t receive the health services they need, with many communities around the world lacking access to basic services like internet connectivity.
A data-driven digital transformation could represent a generation-defining solution. We have the technologies to connect people and services like never before. Now we must put them into action.
More on the Forum Network: OECD Forum Virtual Event: “Healthcare in the Digital Age”
The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a powerful impetus to accelerate the digitalisation of healthcare. From improved early warning tools to enhanced diagnosis capacities and personalised treatments, there are few domains in which AI and digital technologies have as much potential as in healthcare.
India is leading the way
In India, organisations and governments are laying the groundwork to maximise digital infrastructure.
India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has adopted Dell Technologies’ Digital LifeCare to create the NCD IT system for its national non-communicable diseases (NCD) programme. Through this population-based NCD screening programme, the Ministry is harnessing one of the world’s largest public health tech initiatives to bring key public services to rural areas, thanks to the power of an offline first approach with broad connectivity and data driven digital technologies.
Now underway, the platform is proving incredibly effective at raising the level of access to preventative and curative care for all citizens suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like hypertension, diabetes, and three types of cancer. NCDs account for 62% of deaths per year in India and such large-scale interventions are aimed at improving health outcomes through timely screening, diagnosis, and management of NCDs.
Since its launch, 135 million citizens across 33 Indian states have been enrolled in the NCD system, and our partner Tata Trusts has trained over 94,000 healthcare professionals. Overall, the NCD programme has over 135,000 users, including healthcare workers, doctors, and officials.
Its scale and approach make Digital LifeCare a globally relevant blueprint for improving access to, and the quality of healthcare. By leveraging the technology platform, MoHFW is able to better administer and implement the NCD programme, providing a continuum of care for people across different facilities, enabled by a unified view of patients over time with seamless, secure data-sharing.
Big Data enables targeted action
Digital LifeCare works by leveraging advanced connectivity and data collection to improve health service delivery and citizen health record-keeping—a dramatic shift from just a decade ago. This transformation permits governments to see the scale and location of the challenges their citizens face and enable continuity of care.
For national and local healthcare officials, distributed data warehouse and analytics capabilities provide data driven actionable intelligence to Center, State, and District officials, supporting policy decisions making for running the platform effectively.
Thanks to platform capabilities for decision support and task-shifting, healthcare professionals are capable of more effectively identifying issues and bringing about profound societal change.
Ground-breaking health information technology (HIT) advancements as seen in Digital LifeCare have the ability to improve patient access, care continuum, and quality—all while reducing cost. And each day, a growing list of application tools and platforms in a variety of areas supports even greater potential.
For India, this means realising preventative rural health and wellbeing with rapid, practical solutions that help reduce the daily toll of untreated illness.
A further shining example of leveraging tech-driven innovations for healthcare can be seen clearly in the country’s health digital public infrastructure called Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM). This initiative enables citizen interaction, data consent, and public and private sector interoperability with participating healthcare providers, and allows participants to receive digital lab reports, prescriptions, and diagnosis seamlessly from verified healthcare professionals and health service providers. By integrating with ABDM, digital solutions like Digital LifeCare are able to provide portability of health data for patients and enable interoperability with other systems.
Beyond healthcare, projects like India Stack, which offers a set of open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and Digital Public Goods (DPGs) can empower many individuals and businesses and help promote financial and social inclusion.
Infrastructures can span many functions in public services and economies, with DPGs delivering a specialised, shared infrastructure combining open software, data, content, and protocols. In the region of India alone, DPGs could unlock over USD 700 billion by creating new opportunities, through optimising current service delivery systems.
Building digital foundations for closing divides
It’s not just India that has leveraged the power of digital to improve aspects of public service delivery.
Countless examples, from West Africa’s Togo to Asia’s Sri Lanka, demonstrate that having reliable digital infrastructures that support important practices (like commerce and health screening) can advance public and private service delivery and be fundamental to well-functioning economies and their citizens’ wellbeing.
The evidence is clear. By closing the digital divide and collaborating with organisations and communities, we can open all rural areas up to the power of data-driven technologies and innovations.
The potential of initiatives like Digital LifeCare for underserved communities can only be realised by enhancing robust and expansive digital public infrastructure. With infrastructure-first thinking, the public sector can bridge important gaps to deliver more affordable and effective healthcare, education, communications and even identity services that foster improved societal well-being.
With the world’s underserved regions fully connected, included and in sync, we all stand to gain.
As a leader in delivering health data and applying economic analysis for health policy making, the OECD supports policy makers in harnessing data and digital technology for transforming health systems. Visit our dedicated webpage to access OECD data and reports on digital health to learn more!