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Data Science in Digital Health in Uganda

On 27 February, 2019, Kampala International University (KIU) was the venue of the conference ‘Digital Health and Development in Data Science in Uganda’. Professor Mirjam van Reisen from the Leiden Centre of Data Science was one of the main speakers.

At the conference, several experts reflected on the relevance of data science from a medical perspective and the assessment of challenges and opportunities in digital health in Uganda. Dr Mike Barongo, computer scientist from Makerere University, referred to data scientists as the “alchemists of the 21st century”, and stressed on the importance of education in data science at African Universities. Pointing to the rapid growth of data, Dr. Barongo emphasized the need for data science to always be serving the objective of improved well-being of the communities.

Challenges in digital health

Mrs Mariam Basajja presented her investigation in the obstacles for increased sustainability of digital health from a data science perspective. She identified mobile health as a particularly well-developed component of the digital health solutions in Africa, given the continent’s dependency on mobile connectivity. Mrs Basajja pointed to several data challenges, such as findability and the need for management of protection and accessibility of data. She identified the principles of Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability and Reusability, with the acronym FAIR, as a possible solution that would enhance coherence in digital health and help increase the sustainability of its underlying data-analytics.

FAIR Implementation Network for Africa

Prof. Dr Mirjam van Reisen, speaking for the Leiden Centre of Data Science, introduced the third generation of the internet as a new phenomenon that could help solve some of the questions addressed in the seminar, such as the sensitivity of health data. The Internet of Data and Services establishes a machine-readable internet of data. Based on the FAIR data principles, the data management put in place recognizes the role of the public sector and sovereignty of the government, especially the Ministry of Health, as the responsible public authority for data management of health data to protect patients and the public. The applicability both in science and in services would potentially be revolutionary for digital health. A FAIR Implementation Network for Africa could contribute a strong element to the Internet of Data and Services.

Read more about the conference

Text: Prof. Dr Mirjam van Reisen

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