Leveraging digital public goods to build local capacity and support refugees

October 31, 2023 by Tara Newton

PATH is partnering with Guild Digital to address strategic and operational gaps in responding to humanitarian health situations in refugee settlements in Uganda through digital public goods.


Guild Digital, Voluntary Health Team, Medical Teams International and African Humanitarian Action after a successful completion of the rCHMIS training and VHT onboarding in Bukere, Kyaka II settlement, Kyegegwa District, Uganda. Photo: Guild Digital

PATH’s Digital Health Ecosystem project awarded four Africa-based digital health organizations with funding to expand and adapt their offerings to benefit community health and explore sustainable business models. This is the third article (read the first and second) in a four-part series that highlights the different phases of the project, including the application process, the organizational capacity assessment, Community Health Toolkit (CHT) onboarding, and business outcomes.

Refugee environments in Uganda can have disjointed health information systems making programmatic decisions and resource allocation difficult. Moreover, refugees can be isolated from national health program interventions. Guild Digital has adapted a digital public good for refugee environments, the refugee setting Community Health Management Information System (rCHMIS), to address strategic and operational gaps in responding to humanitarian health situations in refugee settlements in Uganda. As part of PATH’s Digital Health Ecosystem project (DHE) funded by the Bayer Foundation, they are enhancing the application to include workflows specifically for use by humanitarian response supervisors so that they can support Voluntary Health Teams (VHTs) in these refugee settlements. We recently connected with their team to get their perspective on the project and their experience onboarding with Medic’s Community Health Toolkit (CHT).


A Voluntary Health Team member conducting refugee household registration, shadowed by a Guild Digital member of staff in Panyadoli village, Kiryandongo settlement, Kiryandongo District, Uganda. Photo: Guild Digital.

“I am excited about showing up for the humanitarian and displacement victims in Africa. I am looking froward to leveraging the community of digital public goods to support health equity, and empower frontline community health workers.”
— Brian Ssennoga, Guild Digital.

Why did Guild Digital decide to pursue the Digital Health Ecosystem project?

Appreciating the profound impact of technology on healthcare, we sought funding to contribute to the development of a comprehensive ecosystem that integrates innovative digital solutions, healthcare providers, patients, and data analytics. This initiative not only aligns with the health sector's pressing need for streamlined healthcare delivery, improved patient outcomes, and enhanced data-driven decision-making but also positions Guild at the forefront of this dynamic sector as a contributor to advancement of healthcare services through digital innovation.

Why was your work a good fit for the CHT?

We successfully executed a pilot for African Humanitarian Action using the CHT in 2022. We supported the configuration and deployment of a CHT-based VHT app in the Kyaka II settlement Kyegegwa District. The app showed great promise to revolutionize healthcare delivery for the communities because it is based on a digital public good that is also open source. This opportunity provided Guild a pathway to one of the overarching goals of the Digital Health Ecosystem project which was to become part of the CHT community with capabilities to scale. Above all, Guild saw an opportunity, and made a decision to commit to the roadmap to develop as an African digital organization within the healthcare landscape.

How did Guild approach beginning to work with the CHT?

We approached the onboarding process for CHT with a highly collaborative and comprehensive strategy. We began by completing courses in the CHT Academy which helped the team gain knowledge and skills on CHT app design and building. We engaged closely with the Medic team that offered tailored support material for design and smooth transition to customizing the CHT. The CHT is extensively documented, and this has allowed our team to pursue self paced onboarding as well.

What did your team learn from onboarding the CHT?

The process to begin working with the CHT played a crucial role in our design journey, particularly due to the invaluable shared design resources that have continuously aided us in aligning our human-centered design efforts with Medic's CHT documentation best practices. As novices, our developers have acquired extensive expertise in rapid development and customization of this highly interactive digital application. This was mainly attributed to the flexibility of the CHT core framework and the technical support provided by the CHT community

“As a developer, I learned how to use the CHT Core Framework to make and customize apps based on the CHT platform and how to work with other developers and stakeholders in the CHT community through the CHT forum and using GitHub.”
— Owen Kasule Muhereza, Guild Digital

What is your team currently focusing on for the project?

To strengthen the VHT led response in the settlements, Guild has aligned with health program implementers and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to design for and test the supervisor application. Supervision is a key pillar of a successful VHT program, and so we are tailoring workflows of the service areas such as Integrated Community Case Management; Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene; and mentorship sessions. We are implementing the feedback we received from supervisors to allow them to customize their experience by selecting preferred metrics, layouts, and notification preferences. And finally, we are also ensuring the application can integrate with existing systems and databases to share and use relevant data, for example, the VHT performance and coverage data.

“Once we roll out the Supervisor App, we'll bridge significant gaps in the supervision of the settlement community health workers, strengthening healthcare outcomes for displaced populations who are served by fellow refugees.”
— Fatiha Taban, Guild Digital

Why is localization important for African organizations such as Guild?

As is central to the ethos of human-centered design, digital health implementations thrive best when developed and delivered by those that are geographically close to their actual context of use, deployment, and impact. Organizations like Guild Digital extend the reach of global partners closer to very nuanced and specific implementation conditions, which when supported yield mutual benefits. Moreover, it's easier to create sustainability pathways founded on availability of local support capacity.

“I am excited for the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse range of stakeholders, including NGOs, local authorities, and international agencies, fostering a sense of shared purpose and teamwork in this work of digital public goods.”
— Winnie Nabbanja, Guild Digital

Guild Digital has also experienced other benefits from being part of the DHE project. In June 2023, Digital Square held the Global Goods Innovators Summit to convene digital health experts representing over 50 organizations around the world to advance the development, adoption, and reuse of digital health tools, known as global goods. What’s more, the convening offered entrepreneurs such as Guild Digital a chance for connection and innovation to further build the global goods ecosystem. Most notable for Guild, their connection to the Dovetail Impact Foundation resulted in their acceptance into the Dovetail Acceleration Portfolio which will provide capacity building and an unrestricted $10K USD grant to grow their organization. This connection and opportunity embody the DHE project goal to create an equitable entrepreneurial environment for digital health developers.