Volume 4
Research-Special Issue(Deepening of Disciplinary Content: Public Health in Post-Covid India)

Making HIS More Agile, Relevant and Public Health Friendly: Lessons from Covid-19 in India

Sundeep Sahay
Department of Informatics, University of Oslo (UiO), Norway
Arunima S Mukherjee
Department of Informatics, University of Oslo (UiO), Norway
Carolyn K Tauro
Department of Informatics, University of Oslo (UiO), Norway
Arijit Sen
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), Norway

Published 2023-09-02


  • Covid, Health Information Systems, Data, India, Outbreak Management, Public Health

How to Cite

Sahay, S., S Mukherjee, A., K Tauro, C., & Sen, A. (2023). Making HIS More Agile, Relevant and Public Health Friendly: Lessons from Covid-19 in India. DIALOGUE: Science, Scientists and Society, 4(.), 1–25. Retrieved from https://dialogue.ias.ac.in/index.php/dialogue/article/view/37


Anthony Giddens, the noted sociologist, describes the COVID-19 pandemic as a ‘digidemic,’ emphasizing the inextricable linkages between the pandemic and the digital (Giddens 2020 ). As the pandemic has spread globally, countries have adopted different strategies to leverage digital technologies, in their design, development, implementation, and governance to address the pandemic. Some of these strategies have worked well and others have not so. We submitted this paper at the time when India was fighting the first COVID-19 wave and are submitting this revised version as India fights a much tougher second wave. And between these two waves, we have witnessed some flattening of the COVID-19 curve and the onset of a rigorous vaccination drive. This paper aims to try to analyse some experiences of how countries leveraged digital technologies in their information systems response, such as from Sri Lanka, South Korea and anchored in a historical understanding of public Health Information Systems (HIS) in India, build key learnings for strengthening HIS in India, both for pandemic situations and also routine health management. These include i) improving agility, reflecting the ability of the HIS to provide timely information for supporting local action; ii) improving relevance, implying providing required information for supporting the desired action for different stakeholders; and, iii) public friendliness, implying the HIS should help support population health at large in an equitable manner. We argue that these learnings are not only relevant for strengthening the HIS response to pandemic management but also more broadly for strengthening Indian public HIS covering routine systems. These learnings are particularly pertinent in the current ‘digital’ context in India, where large-scale interventions related to the National Digital Health Mission are currently being planned and implemented. For good or bad, the ‘digital’ is inevitable in public health systems globally, and it becomes important for researchers and practitioners to engage with this process of understanding the digital interventions and contribute to strengthening the health systems.


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