Seeking digital tools from the Philippines that can help address development and humanitarian challenges

Digital public goods (DPGs) are digital tools that can be used to address key development and humanitarian challenges in different countries and contexts. They can be software, content, or services, but all have to demonstrate the use of an approved open license that allows them to be modified or built on by other developers to meet context-specific needs or, where able and appropriate, serve outside their intended use.

For example, DHIS2, a DPG deployed in over 50 countries, is commonly used as a health information management system. But its design was flexible enough that it can also track and record information from other sectors such as education, sanitation, and agriculture, allowing several ministries in one country to use it. It can be used by both a community health worker to access patient health information and a public school teacher to report on sanitation facilities in schools.

With support from the Digital Public Goods Alliance (DPGA), a multistakeholder group that facilitates the discovery, development, use of, and investment in DPGs to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in low- and middle-income countries, UNICEF is working to increase awareness in the Philippine tech sector about DPGs and identify mature solutions that are well-poised to become DPGs.

One such solution is Project AEDES, an internationally recognized data-driven dengue portal developed by CirroLytix, a social impact technology company based in the Philippines. AEDES is the first Philippine tech solution to be vetted by DPGA as a digital public good.

The AEDES prototype is an information portal that predicts dengue hotspots by making correlations from dengue cases and deaths, real-time climate data, Google searches, and satellite maps. It is targeted to be used by public health and local government agencies to give them advanced notice of dengue outbreaks. This helps them pre-position resources and plan a response to mitigate or address a dengue outbreak.

Project AEDES is a global awardee of the 2019 NASA International Space Apps Challenge (winning the Best Use of Data category) and the 2020 Earth Observation for the Sustainable Development Goals. And now with AEDES as a vetted DPG, the CirroLytix team hopes the recognition can accelerate the development of technology to protect more lives from dengue through addressing data delays. “By becoming a DPG, we aim to set a digital footing for the community of practice to produce and innovate through dengue research with other experts,” said Dominic Ligot, founder and Chief Technology Officer of CirroLytix.

UNICEF is working with partners in the Philippines like the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to promote DPGs and encourage more tech companies and innovators in the country to participate in the DPG nomination and vetting process.

One of the first joint activities was a webinar held on 27 May 2021 that was attended by over 90 representatives from the government, academe, and technology and innovation sectors. Key representatives from DPGA and UNICEF’s Headquarters and East Asia and the Pacific Regional Office talked about the importance of democratizing the digital innovation space, openly sharing resources, scaling solutions to meet the world’s most pressing challenges, how to do so by becoming DPGs, and what support from the global community are available to DPGs.

"Even though the Philippines has made strides towards digitization, more work is needed to the accelerate the growth and adaption of digital solutions across organizations. Mainstreaming DPGs, especially among existing government tech partners, would enable the rapid adoption of innovations thereby improving governance and service for the public,” said Enrico Paringit, Executive Director of the DOST - Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development. DPGs can unlock opportunities for greater collaboration across and within organizations, ultimately enabling governments to adopt digital solutions more cost-efficiently and sustainably, and ensure that these reach the last mile to benefit the most disadvantaged.

For UNICEF, innovative solutions like DPGs can help accelerate progress in addressing issues that affect children. Innovation and partnerships can provide new ways of solving problems to improve the lives of children, especially the most disadvantaged. “We look forward to collaborating further and for DPGs to become a mainstream pathway among homegrown tech actors working for social impact not only in the Philippines but globally,” said Behzad Noubary, UNICEF Philippines Deputy Representative for Programmes.

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