The NIH Common Fund’s Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I Africa) program will leverage data science technologies and prior NIH investments to develop solutions to the continent’s most pressing public health problems. Data drive scientific discovery. Recent technological advances, in Africa and around the world, mean researchers are collecting enormous volumes of data. The collection and analysis of data are fundamental activities that underpin the health field. Africa’s ability to fully extract useful knowledge from these data will lead to discoveries that can impact global health.
Despite recent progress, Africa carries a disproportionate share of the global burden of disease. While data science applications are largely undeveloped in Africa, many of the enabling factors for a catalytic impact are already in place. Extensive mobile phone coverage in Africa has led to major innovations that could bring the clinic to the patient through data science technologies, with applications to rural and underserved populations in the United States and worldwide. With partnerships from academia, government, and private sectors, DS-I Africa will form a unique continental ecosystem that could be transformative, bringing together existing expertise to develop data tools and applications that can be shared, adopted, and harmonized globally. DS-I Africa research hubs will advance population-relevant, affordable, acceptable, and scalable data science solutions to improve health in Africa. An open data science platform will develop and maintain a data-sharing gateway for existing resources and new data generated by the DS-I Africa research hubs. Research training programs will include a strong foundation in rigorous research design, methods, and analytic techniques. They will provide interdisciplinary research experience and enhance trainees’ ability to develop novel data science solutions. A coordinating center will deliver the organizational framework for the direction and management of the initiative’s common activities. Finally, the program will support research into key ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) issues that present challenges in Africa such as data privacy and ownership, cybersecurity, and sensitivities concerning the use of geospatial information for research or public health surveillance.
The Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa program is made up of five initiatives that are working synergistically to accomplish the program's goals:
- Research Hubs: Advance and demonstrate feasibility of data science research and innovation to improve health in Africa
- Training: Increase capacity for data science research in Africa
- ELSI Research: Explore Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications of data science research from an African perspective and contribute to policy discussion on the continent
- Open Data Science Platform & Coordination Center: Facilitate the development of a trans-African network of data scientists
- Symposia: Catalyze new collaborations, gather stakeholders, and explore the state of the field for data science research in Africa
Intended deliverables at the end of 5 to 10 years include:
- Recognized centers of excellence in data science and innovation
- Advances in policy surrounding Ethical Legal Social Implications of data science research in Africa
- New interdisciplinary collaborations and scientific knowledge improving clinical practice and health
- Demonstration of feasibility of data science and innovation to improve health in Africa
- Increased capacity to develop and advance data science tools and applications
- A unique continental network of scientists advancing data science research in Africa
This page last reviewed on October 26, 2021