HLPF Side-Event: Strengthening Government Data4Recovery Capacity with a Focus on Public Health, 15 July 2021

By July 7, 2021 February 21st, 2024 Digital Transformation Events, Events

  • When:  15 July, 7:30AM – 9:00AM (EDT)
  • Registration: To register for this event, please click here.


The COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest crisis of our time, claiming more than 2 million lives and causing the biggest shock to the global economy since the second world war. The social and economic restrictions that have been implemented in many countries to control the virus have exposed and exacerbated inequalities. Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals has stalled, and in some cases may have reversed.

Despite all these challenges, the Government of Bangladesh brought together private sector, civil society, academia, media and development partners from around the world to form an unprecedented partnership and establish a novel, Collective Data Intelligence System that enables:

  1. Syndromic surveillance
  2. Mortality surveillance
  3. Contact tracing
  4. Epidemiological modeling
  5. Health response planning and management

There are other remarkable examples from countries which have also responded successfully to the crisis. An example is Rwanda, a country that has successfully managed the response to the pandemic. Thanks to pre-existing investments in building a smart data management system, Rwanda was able to administer all of the nearly 350,000 vaccine doses it received through the COVAX Facility within two weeks despite only given a few days’ notice before the doses arrived. Singapore introduced a state championed, citizen-driven ‘TraceTogether’ contact tracing system and early hospital management with the creative use of technology and data. ‘Aarogya Setu’, an Indian, open source COVID–19 contact tracing, syndromic mapping and self-assessment mobile app reached more than 100 million installs in 40 days and was lauded by the World Health Organization for helping health departments to identify COVID-19 clusters. Bangladesh is another example where the country’s Health Ministry is using a locally developed, intelligent data dashboard that aggregates, integrates, and analyzes data from government sources, telecoms services providers, NGOs, researchers and journalists to pinpoint geographic locations where disease progression is the fastest in order to conduct epidemiological analysis and prioritize medical response resulting in COVID-19 hotspots being identified 7 to 10 days ahead of RT-PCR tests, helping save lives.

Rapid total mortality surveillance offers another example of the useful insights the system can yield. Multiple data sources are utilized to measure excess total mortality from April 2020 onwards, compared to the corresponding time-period in preceding baseline years. The focus on total mortality can also capture the pandemic’s indirect mortality burden, which may be caused by disruptions to the access, use and provision of health-care services. Data on causes of death can also be mined for confirmatory evidence of the direct and indirect toll in excess mortality associated with the pandemic.

What does this mean from a public health standpoint? Such actionable public health intelligence can overcome the ambiguities of just measuring cases and deaths linked to the infectious disease causing the epidemic. Measuring excess death is therefore a valuable indicator in the response of countries to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Telemedicine offers interesting avenues to knowing the extent of the prevalence of the pandemic and its impact on communities (based on information regarding the approx. 95% of people who are not hospitalized), before things reach a critical level. It can also be used for long-term follow-ups and collecting re-infection information which can indicate the extent to which immunity is taking hold in a population. This constitutes incredibly important data given suggestions from experts that the protection granted by vaccines may wear off after 6 to 8 months and the increasing focus on herd immunity.

Beyond COVID-19, successful deployment of such systems can serve as a blueprint for rapid response systems, such as outbreak response, for countries working with challenges of resource constraints and limited testing capacity and overcoming it with novel data streams and analytics in collaboration with a comprehensive set of partners.

However, walking the talk will likely be much harder. Case in point, national ID systems and civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS). Many countries around the world have already been working on these. But despite their well-documented benefits, including more efficient, customized service delivery, emergency relief transfers and potentially forming the basis for shared health records, many countries do not yet have adequate systems in place.


The primary objective of this side event is to bring governments, development partners, UN entities, the private sector, and academia together to share best practices and exchange views on how to acquire the knowledge and tools they need to develop collective data intelligence systems that harness data and technology customized and utilized on a national scale to provide evidence for decision making, strategizing and ultimately, accelerating COVID-19 recovery.

It will focus on data that informs the process of strengthening and rethinking public health policy in the new normal and feature a presentation on a working model being used by the Government of Bangladesh.

During the side-event, participants will analyse specific case studies and strategy recommendations pertaining to:

  • How can data help us prepare more targeted health response including management of medical resources? How can it help us track the long-term effects of the disease? –
  • How can modeling help us predict what’s about to happen in the future including outbreaks of COVID and studying the potential impact of the spread of new variants of the disease, massive movements of people within countries and across borders triggered by outbreaks, natural disasters, major religious festivals, holidays, etc.?
  • How can rapid total mortality surveillance and resulting excess mortality data help policymakers overcome the ambiguities of just measuring cases and deaths linked to the infectious disease causing the epidemic?
  • How can advocacy efforts more effectively promote the crucial role of leadership, governance, and coordination in the CRVS system to ensure that all stakeholders work collaboratively to ensure that everyone count?


1. Opening Remarks

  • E. Ms. Rabab Fatima, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the United Nations

2. Special Statements

  • E. Dr. Frank C.S. Anthony, Minister of Health, Cooperative Republic of Guyana
  • E. Dr. Gustavo Martin Rosell De Almeida, Vice Minister of Public Health, República del Perú

3. Keynote Presentation

  • Anir Chowdhury, Policy Advisor, a2i Programme, ICT Division/Cabinet Division/UNDP Bangladesh, Co-founder, South-South Network for Public Service Innovation (SSN4PSI), Future of Work Lab

4. Panel Discussion 1

  • Padmini Srikantiah, MD MPH, Senior Program Officer in Global Health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (Moderator)
  • Xiaojun Grace Wang, Deputy Director for Programme and Operations, UNOSSC
  • Jacquelline Fuller, VP, Google and President of Google.org
  • Pramod Varma, Chief Architect Aadhaar & India Stack, CTO EkStep Foundation, Cofounder Beckn.org, Volunteer iSPIRT.

5. First Panel Q&A.

6. Panel Discussion 2

  • Philip Setel, Vice President, Vital Strategies (Moderator).
  • Samira Asma, Assistant Director General, Division of Data, Analytics, and Delivery for Impact, World Health Organization.
  • Gretchen Van Wye, Assistant Commissioner & City Registrar, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
  • Government of Rwanda (TBD).

7. Second Panel Q&A.

8. Concluding Remarks 

  • Zuena Aziz, Principal Coordinator (SDG Affairs), Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Bangladesh.