4 key takeaways from the 7th DHIS2 Symposium

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The DHIS2 community came together for the 7th annual DHIS2 Symposium. At the end of September, the Symposium was held virtually for the second time, and this turned out to be the largest one to date. 

The 562 registrants and 47 speakers joined from over 75 countries around the world. Representatives from global development agencies, governments, NGOs, among others, discussed challenges encountered, lessons learned, and engaging innovations in leveraging DHIS2 – all geared towards the focus of using data to drive action and impact.

“I’m always inspired to see the community that comes together at the DHIS2 Symposium,” said Sarah Searle from BAO Systems. “The environments we operate in as health and development workers, technologists, and strategic information experts are more complex than ever, but it’s clear there is an ever-growing body of experienced implementers and engineers who are pushing our field forward to leverage DHIS2 to provide data for effective decision making.”

The two days were filled with insightful and inspirational stories and experiences of how DHIS2 is being used in creative ways to solve common challenges in collecting, managing, visualizing, and most importantly, using data. Here are 4 key takeaway messages from this year’s DHIS2 Symposium.

A crisis is not the time to be trying new things. The best solutions build from a proven foundation

DHIS2 has been rapidly deployed to manage national vaccine delivery plans, in alignment with the WHO strategy for supporting the scale-up of digital solutions to support efficient, equitable delivery of COVID-19 vaccines. This includes extensive use of Tracker for electronic immunization registries and vaccination certificates, as well as components for monitoring vaccine stock and logistics, and tracking of Adverse Events Following Immunization. 

The success of being able to support during the COVID-19 crisis, from surveillance to the vaccine programs, has been a marriage between a platform that was able to be flexible and responsive, but really, truly local innovation and the hard efforts there.

We need to send the data to where people are spending their time

Predictors can be a powerful and sometimes overlooked tool for transforming data within DHIS2, to increase the power of analytics and to better model some data. Using supply chain management as an example during the Bootcamp on Predictors for Enhanced Analytics and Data Transformation, participants learned that DHIS2 figures out where the stock supply issues are and will automatically send notifications where it detects those issues, based upon the data that is available. For example, staff at district medical stores or at the central warehouse wake up and see an email from DHIS2, alerting them of which facilities are stocked out or understocked of certain commodities. 

They receive a workable, actionable list. 

Typically these workers do not work in DHIS2, so data needs to be sent to where they are spending their time, which is email. Using a combination of predictors and validation rules alerts to send electronic messages, a significant amount of actionable data can get to the people who need it.

DHIS2 is also suitable in high income countries

In many ways the COVID-19 pandemic has driven and prioritized much of the DHIS2 software development work. In particular, ensuring that the DHIS2 Tracker and the Android application were capable of being a light-weight, mobile tracker solution that could rapidly deploy in scale in conjunction with the deployment of the Covid-19 metadata packages.  

In Norway, 115 municipalities have adopted DHIS2 for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing purposes. This proves that DHIS2 is also suitable in high income countries.

Transparency can be painful but it is the best and only way to approach your security policies

Security is critically important, yet historically under-appreciated in the space that we work in. In the health and development sectors, security has at times been undervalued or seen as a barrier to innovation. Though when considering the types of populations that a lot of our DHIS2 implementations work with,  people who might be vulnerable because of health or immigration status for example, we should be focusing more on security. 

For Austin McGee, who works with the DHIS2 Security Team, maximum transparency is a security principle. It may be tempting to sweep security issues under the rug, but transparency is the best and only way to promote security throughout the community and group of stakeholders working with a software. 


The generous support of our sponsors made it possible for so many more members of the DHIS2 community to make connections and join the Symposium in real time. “We are a proud sponsor of the DHIS2 Symposium; bringing thought leaders together to make advancements in data-driven insights that empower health initiatives globally,” said Mark Overmann, Accenture Federal Services. 

For more takeaway messages from the 7th DHIS2 Symposium, the general session recordings are available on the BAO Systems YouTube channel.


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