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Empowering local innovators in Tanzania to leverage open data

The Data for Local Impact Innovation Challenge (DLIIC) recently selected 12 winning innovators to tackle health challenges in Tanzania. DLIIC is funded by the U.S. Government’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to engage and support Tanzania’s growing data community and strengthen health outcomes. The Dar es Salaam Teknohama Business Incubator (DTBi) is collaborating with Palladium to implement DLIIC.

The DLI Innovation Challenge involves and builds the capacity of the technical community and local innovators to better use data to address national health priorities.

Around the world, important decisions around health, development, and resource allocation are often based on incomplete, inaccessible or simply inaccurate information. Limitations in data production, quality, access, and use prevent informed decision-making. However, the situation is changing. Robust data ecosystems are emerging, and new technology has improved the availability and usefulness of data. Data itself is being made more accessible through government open data initiatives and data sharing by private actors.

After experiencing success in achieving several of the Millennium Development Goals, the Government of Tanzania is striving to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. To achieve these goals, the government is committed to expanding and improving the use of data and technology to strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of its public health services.

Over the past decade, the Tanzanian Government has increasingly made health data publically available to provide greater transparency and enhance the effectiveness of health programs. However, sharing data with the public does not guarantee the effective use of this data. There still remains an opportunity and challenge to involve and build the capacity of the technical community and local innovators to better use this information to address national health priorities.

What’s it all about?
The Data for Local Impact Innovation Challenge aims to engage, support, and connect Tanzanian innovators, developers, and solution providers to each other, as well as to opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives,” - Agapiti Manday, DLIIC’s Program Manager.

The DLI Innovation Challenge is funded by the U.S. Government’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and is part of the broader PEPFAR-funded Data Collaboratives for Local Impact (DCLI) program. Through interconnected investments, the goal of the DCLI program is to enable and showcase the effective use of data for combatting HIV/AIDS, improving global health, promoting gender equality and driving economic growth. Specifically, it targets the national and local government, and citizens to enhance policies and programs; drive innovation; and increase transparency, accountability and efficiency.

The $21.8m DCLI program was launched in April 2015 with funding from PEPFAR and oversight by the Millennium Challenge Corporation. The program aligns with broader U.S. government efforts to maximize the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance, the Digital Gap Act of 2017, and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, which aims to promote data collaboration to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

In collaboration with the Dar es Salaam Teknohama Business Incubator (DTBi), Palladium is helping to implement the DLI Innovation Challenge in Tanzania. The DTBi-Palladium team is awarding grants to Tanzanians (both individuals and organisations) who have creative ideas about how to use or combine data in new ways to gain insights or empower people through access to life-changing information.

Celebrating innovative ideas
The first DLI Innovation Challenge window was during October and November 2016, with a focus on three themes:

1. Access to quality healthcare and information
2. Empowering citizens to reduce school absenteeism of young women and girls
3. Feedback from the community on health service quality

All applications were required to either produce or use open data sets, be operational within three months, and focus on issues facing youth, young women and marginalized communities. The solutions were also required to target at least one of the 84 districts that are considered priorities under the PEPFAR 2017 Tanzanian Country Operational Plan, which was developed in collaboration with the Government of Tanzania.

From 129 applications, twelve local innovators were awarded grants to implement data-focused health solutions. These entrepreneurs will receive awards ranging from USD $7,000 to $25,000, along with technical support and mentoring to implement a variety of community-based solutions. The winners will start their training in March 2017, and will implement their projects over the next 3-6 months. This experience will enhance their practical project management skills, business acumen, and data science capabilities. Most importantly, these winning innovators will be making a real difference to their communities and the lives of Tanzanians.

As we’ve learnt through the DLI Innovation Challenge, the value of data exists in how it is used to inform policy decisions, connect people to health services, identify causes of school absenteeism, empower citizens to voice their healthcare needs, and a thousand and one other ways in which the effective use of data can create Positive Impact and social change.

Through close collaboration with the Tanzanian government, the DLI Innovation Challenge is identifying and building the capacity of local innovators to transform open data into health solutions that make a difference in their communities.

Visit the DLIIC website for the full list of winners, and check back in the coming months for winner profiles and announcements about the second challenge window!

To learn more about Palladium’s Health and Informatics portfolio, please contact Sindri Kinnier (Sindri.Kinnier@thepalladiumgroup.com) or visit our Health capabilities page. If you enjoyed this blog, you may want to check out our article on the role of big data in health here.