Digital Technologies in the Humanitarian Context

Plenary session being run as part of the DPH 2019 conference in collaboration with the EUPHA section on Migrant and Ethnic Minority Health

Thursday 21st November 2019 at 09:00 – 10:00, Les Goudes 1


The panel will address the potential benefits and challenges in applying digital technologies to humanitarian scenarios. Key themes are (1) empowering the individual (or the beneficiary) and informal care-givers with knowledge tools to participate in decision-making related to one’s own health (2) building capacity of healthcare professionals, at the point of care and across the continuum and levels of care (3) capturing, securing and sharing data from the field and institutions in order to better inform public health policy and the design of practices for the delivery of care and (4) aggregating data and new knowledge from the sector to accelerate the development of health technology.

Some of the barriers to experiencing the benefits from digital technologies include ability to effectively reach the target groups;  public perception: show them the benefits and allay fears arising from uncertainty and hence the need for empowerment, financing: funding for efforts to transition to digitally-enabled practices, incentives: mechanisms to encourage sharing resources that ensure use and hence the longevity of digital resources and governance: structures, regulatory practices and ethical guidelines to secure responsible use of digital resources and conserving privacy and common good.


Bernadette Kumar (Chair)

President of the EUPHA section of Migration and Ethnic Minority Health

Paul Lalvani

Empower School of Health

Talk outline: Experience of scaling learning and knowledge diffusion across 25 countries and customization by language and type of content to ensure cost-effectiveness. Digital Learning Platforms can be designed and deployed to enable countries to develop independently.

Javier Teran

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Talk outline: Presentation of a use case where technologyenabled the analysis of community sentiments during the peak of the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu (DRC) and converted them in an actionable interactive dashboard contributing to the DR Congo’s relief efforts. Use of data to do good without doing harm, especially with health-related data and present findings from OCHA’s data responsibility research

Francis D’Silva

Director ‘Smart Care’, CGI Healthcare and Life Sciences

Talk outline: Experience of designing national-scale digital platforms in health and government in Norway. The role of digital health products that use data; how can “digital” serve the objectives of the individual (empowerment), care professionals (practices and collaboration) and society (policy and financing). What then are the key barriers to making “digital” work for society; inclusion, self-enablement, collaboration in service delivery and translating research to innovation.

Raphael Brechard

GIS and eHealth Coordinator at Medicins Sans Frontieres

Talk outline: Should the machine be able to replace the human in a Humanitarian medical organization? Will we send a machine to replace the Doctors in the field where the humanitarian space is more complex and dangerous? Can we use the all-digital in all the contexts without becoming a danger for the communities we serve? Is it always a progress or is there any danger to the all-digital in Public Health?  Many questions to think about when starting a digital transformation.