Why Gender Matters for Digital Health
Recommendations for gender-sensitive programming
Meg Davis and Fumi Kurihara
Published by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in March 2023.
This technical brief, commissioned by the GIZ-implemented Sector Initiative ‘Global Health’, explores how gender inequalities can affect the way digital health interventions are planned, designed and used. It also considers how such interventions can intentionally or unintentionally impact on existing inequalities or create new ones.
The brief was developed on the basis of a literature review and informed by interviews with experts working in GIZ-implemented (digital) health and gender projects. It is aimed at actors, including development partners, who are involved in commissioning, designing, implementing and evaluating digital health programming.
Given their transformational potential, digital technologies are now widely used to support health service delivery and to underpin the day-to-day operations of health systems, often with the support of development partners. Frequently overlooked, however, is the fact that digital health interventions are not inherently ‘neutral’ and may not work equally well for everyone. In some cases, digital technologies may perpetuate existing gender inequalities or lead to the emergence of new inequalities. In others, they may introduce new privacy or security risks for users who face intersectional inequalities, such as members of sexual minorities. These examples and others show why it is so important that digital health interventions – if they are to realise their promise – be gender-sensitive by design.
The paper discusses the gendered opportunities and risks which should be taken into account when designing digital health interventions, and concludes with seven recommendations for making digital health programming more gender-sensitive. These recommendations are derived with reference to the Principles for Digital Development, which are widely endorsed by organisations, including GIZ, who are committed to effective and sustainable use of information technology in development cooperation. Rather than offering a roadmap to follow, the recommendations are an invitation to reflection and further discussion.
Do any of these ideas resonate with your experiences with digital health programming? If so, let us know by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always interested to collect examples and learnings relevant to this emerging field.