In memoriam: Dieter Neuvians

A digital pioneer for German Development Cooperation

Dieter Neuvians

From the late 1990ies onwards, the HESP newsletter was a crucial source of information for public health and social protection experts in development cooperation worldwide. Dieter Neuvians, its founder and editor, passed away on 8 June, just nine days after he sent out the latest issue. He will be missed.

On Friday evening, 8 June 2018, Dieter Neuvians, a highly respected colleague and reliable friend for many in German Development Cooperation’s health and social protection community, passed away. From 2013-2016 he was the Healthy DEvelopment portal’s first webmaster and a crucial member of our team, this being just a small episode in a long and productive professional life.

Dieter’s postings as public health expert for German Development Cooperation took him and his family first to Yemen and then for many years to Tanzania - according him and his wife perhaps the best time of their lives. Next they were sent to Zimbabwe, another place at which they made many friends and even bought a house, before they finally moved to Cape Town where Dieter retired.

At a time in which digitalisation is so high on German Development Cooperation’s agenda, it is worth remembering that Dieter was one of its pioneers. In the mid-nineties he set up a comprehensive mailing list of all interested GIZ health and social protection experts - a tool that continues to be used and valued by this community up until today - and he did this at a time when head office still used fax machines for written communication with staff in partner countries.

In the late nineties, Dieter started his famous newsletter - the HESP News & Notes - in which he collected and shared the latest publications and resources that could be of interest to his public health colleagues across the world. This fortnightly newsletter, with its long list of interesting publications, its ’tipps and tricks’ section and always a funny cartoon, soon became an institution, within German Development Cooperation and far beyond.

When, many years ago, I asked Dieter if he could support me - with his digital expertise - to start a collaborative knowledge management initiative – the German Health Practice Collection - that would bring together colleagues and partners around the world together in debate over 'good practice‘ in health social protection, he was immediately on board. Until last year, we worked as a team on this initiative, driven by the conviction that knowledge needed to be continuously ‚harvested‘, shared and discussed, in a transparent and interactive manner (and both being internet-junkies, offline only when asleep).

Several times in recent years, when we had quick work-related email exchanges, Dieter would mention in passing that he was actually being treated at an Intensive Care Unit. But that I shouldn’t worry, that he would bring X,Y, Z online shortly - which he then did.

In the last issue of the HESP newsletter, which he sent out just over a week ago, he acknowledged that it might be the last one and stated: ‘I thank you all for your interest in our work for many years and hope you will survive even without our newsletter.‘

We will try, Dieter, but it will be hard and you will be missed.

Anna von Roenne
June 2018 

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