Harnessing digital technology for COVID-19 response in Uganda: lessons and implications for future public health emergencies

BMJ Glob Health. 2023 Oct;8(Suppl 6):e013288. doi: 10.1136/bmjgh-2023-013288.


COVID-19 was one of the greatest disruptors of the 21st century, causing significant morbidity and mortality globally. Countries around the world adopted digital technologies and innovations to support the containment of the pandemic. This study explored the use of digital technology and barriers to its utilisation in responding to COVID-19 and sustaining essential health services in Uganda to inform response to future public health emergencies in low-resource settings. We reviewed published and grey literature on the use of digital technology in Uganda's response from March 2020 to April 2021 and conducted interviews with key informants. We thematically synthesised and summarised information on digital technology use as well as related challenges. During the COVID-19 response, digital technology was used in testing, contact tracing and surveillance, risk communication, supportive supervision and training, and maintenance of essential health services. The challenges with technology use were the disparate digital tools and health information systems leading to duplication of effort; limited access and coverage of digital tools, poor data quality; inaccessibility of data and an inability to support data manipulation, analysis and visualisation. Moreover, the inherent inadequate technology support systems such as poor internet and electricity infrastructure in some areas posed challenges of inequity. The harnessing of technology was key in supporting the COVID-19 response in Uganda. However, gaps existed in access, adoption, harmonisation, evaluation, sustainability and scale up of technology options. These issues should be addressed in preparedness efforts to foster technology adoption and application in public health emergencies with a focus on equity.

Keywords: COVID-19; Public Health.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Digital Technology
  • Emergencies
  • Humans
  • Public Health
  • Uganda / epidemiology