Artificial Intelligence | Big Data | Emerging Trends | ICT4SDG | SDG3 | Youth
February 25, 2020

Responsibly unlocking the potential of data in health

By Stefan Germann, CEO and Ulla Jasper, Policy Officer, Fondation Botnar

We are witnessing a global shift from traditional, reactive healthcare to proactive health and wellbeing/wellness fuelled by digital solutions.

A recently published article from mHealth shows that 75% of healthcare companies are planning to execute artificial intelligence (AI) strategies in 2020.

This presents a great opportunity to continue unleashing the potential of AI and frontier technologies to improve healthcare.

The uptake of digital solutions is welcome; however, it also raises critical ethical and societal questions that need answering.

As technology becomes more integrated in health services, there is and will continue to be, a huge increase in both the generation and usage of health data.

The opportunities to harness the transformative power of big data have never been greater, but we need to urgently come up with equitable and sustainable solutions for health data governance.

Opportunities and challenges

Telemedicine, health chatbots/apps, and smart watches coupled with monitoring of social media and web data is bringing an opportunity to leverage data to better understand and generate insights about health.

“Young people have the potential to be powerful changemakers, but for this to be realised they need to be included in the discussions about our collective digital future.”

Our health data is constantly being recorded, stored, and shared, but the rules of how  technology companies use citizens’ sensitive data are few.

This, in combination with the private sector taking an increasingly leading role in designing solutions for digital welfare, creates opportunities as well as challenges.

There is a growing critical dialogue around governance structures for health data, but it is time for the dialogue to be turned into concrete action.

The current situation poses a risk for citizens’ privacy and we need to start developing governance structures that both aid innovation and protect our privacy.

Ownership of health data

Ownership of health data must be tackled before equity can be secured.

From a human rights perspective, ownership of health data can be problematic. There are many questions surrounding visibility and lack of privacy of citizens’ information, especially as the data becomes accessible to governments and big companies.

“At Fondation Botnar, we are prioritizing the development and implementation of digital solutions, particularly in AI, that improve the health and wellbeing of young people in low- and middle-income countries.”

We would like to see a different development where companies and government responsibly and transparently use citizens’ data. However, while new power structures over individuals, but also societies are emerging, there is a general reluctance among most governments to regulate the activities of the big tech companies. This is compounded by resistance from companies in taking systematic responsibility for human rights to be considered; new power structures over individuals are emerging, which has to be well-managed.

More voice for young people

With ongoing global efforts on data and digital health policy initiatives, such as the UN Secretary’s High-Level Panel on Digital Collaboration, the Financial Times and Lancet Commission ‘Governing Health Futures 2030: Growing up in a Digital World’, and the World Health Organization’s draft Global Strategy on Digital Health, we call on the global health community to give more voice and attention to young people – many of whom are naturally digital natives – to be part of shaping a fair and equitable future.

Young people have the potential to be powerful changemakers, but for this to be realised they need to be included in the discussions about our collective digital future.

At Fondation Botnar, we are prioritizing the development and implementation of digital solutions, particularly in AI, that improve the health and wellbeing of young people in low- and middle-income countries.

We want to ensure young people are not just involved but have real tangible power and influence in the design of innovative solutions, and in shaping policy and global agendas.

These are some of the challenges and opportunities we are currently facing. Join us at our session at the AI for Good Global Summit in Geneva, 4–8 May 2020, where we will dive deeper into these challenges and discuss opportunities together with young experts and rights specialists from around the world.

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Responsibly unlocking the potential of data in health

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