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Networks launched to boost Digital Innovation for Development in Africa (DIDA)


Networks launched to boost Digital Innovation for Development in Africa (DIDA)

Twenty-four new networks are announced today that bring together academics, industry, NGOs, policymakers and practitioners from Africa with UK partners to maximise digital technologies to address development challenges including health, energy and accessibility to online resources. Funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the projects, lasting up to a year, and totalling £3M focus on three themes:

  • Digital Rights

For example, one network hopes to bring digital diagnostics to laboratories and clinics across Africa through the use of open source hardware- beginning with a 3D printed microscope.

  • Smart Communities

One project plans to develop a system for mapping deprived city neighbourhoods. Accurate and usable maps can help to manage the social and physical impacts of accommodating a rising population.

  • Digital Health

A group of young people at the core of one network will work with researchers, service providers and policy-makers to develop responsible and relevant digital mental health interventions for young people in African countries.

Other examples of the networks being funded include diagnosing malaria through a smart phone, training midwives using virtual reality, and monitoring and improving air quality in East Africa.

Africa is ranked top of the global internet penetration growth ranking, meaning growth in the number of people using the internet since 2000, is more than in any other continent. This illustrates how digital technologies and advances are becoming more pertinent to people living within these countries. This rapid growth in usage can be utilised to tackle challenges which affect the lives of people throughout Africa. With the largest cohort of people under 25 in history, digital channels have immense opportunities to provide long and lasting impacts.

Professor Helen Fletcher, Director of International Development at UK Research and Innovation said:

“DIDA has the potential to address many longstanding development issues and deliver positive outcomes across the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) and the GCRF Challenge Portfolios.

Better access to technology could be a game-changer for development and the closing of the income inequality gap in Africa.”

The stage one funding announced today is seed funding to establish networks across a range of partners. Towards the end of the grant, the networks will be invited to apply for stage two funding that will fund six to eight projects with total maximum funding of £19M over three years, costing between £1M to £3M each. The projects in the second stage could be either a research project or enhanced network building through a ‘Network Plus’ grant.

This funding has been allocated from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), a £1.5 billion fund to support cutting-edge research which addresses the problems faced by developing countries. GCRF will address global challenges through disciplinary and interdisciplinary research and will strengthen capability for research and innovation within both the UK and developing countries, providing an agile response to emergencies where there is an urgent research need. GCRF forms part of the UK's Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment and will be awarded in a manner that fits with ODA guidelines.

The 24 Networks

Principal Investigator(s)


Dr Nervo Xavier Verdezoto Dias

Co-designing Community-based ICTs Interventions to Enhance Maternal and Child Health in South Africa

Professor Ilina Singh

Engaging Young People in the Development of Digital Mental Health Innovation in Africa

Dr Richard Bowman

Digital diagnostics for smarter healthcare in Africa

Dr Aubrey Cunnington

Digital Diagnostics for Africa Network

Professor Jim Todd

Implementation Network for Sharing Population Information from Research Entities in East Africa (INSPIRE-EA)

Dr Jen Bagelman

Digital Health for Migrant Mothers Network: Maternal Care in Dadaab Camps

Professor Jonathan Cooper

Mobile Phone enabled Diagnostics for Infectious Disease Diagnosis: Low Cost Tools for Digital Health in East Africa

Professor Frances Griffiths

Co-produced mobile consulting for remote, marginalised communities in Africa

Professor Andrew Boulle

The African Health Information Exchange Network: transforming chronic disease care

Mr Darren Mark Lumbroso

Mosquito-Borne Disease Prevention in Africa- Network (MosquitoNET)

Dr Albert Chen

OVERCOME - digital innOVation in flood Early warning and wateR-related disease prevention for COMmunity capacity building and rEsilience

Professor Francis Pope

East African Digital Solutions to Air Quality Network

Dr Caroline Kabaria

Integrated Deprived Area Mapping System (IDEAMAPS) Network

Professor Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern

Environment fingerprinting via digital technology - a new paradigm in hazard forecasting and early-warning systems for health risks in Africa

Dr Muyiwa Oyinlola

Digital Innovations for Transitioning to a Circular plastic Economy - (DITCh Plastic)

Professor Majid Ezzati

Integrated digital monitoring and management of air pollution in African cities

Dr Alex Money

Digital Africa Water Network (DAWN)

Professor Dorothea Kleine

Gender-Just Digital Innovation in Africa (GeDIA): Uniting women changemakers (and their male allies) to co-design gender-just digital futures

Professor Alcinda Honwana

Datafication and Digital Rights in East Africa

Professor Mollie Painter

Women's Equality & Digital Access: Rights To Expression WE-DARE

Dr Winfred Onyas

Bridging the digital gender divide to stimulate growth in African digital economies

Dr Thomas Molony

Developing Data? Markets and Politics in a Digital Age

Dr Tony Roberts

African Digital Rights Network

Dr Bronwen Thomas

Digital Reading: Inclusivity, Versatility, Engagement. Supporting underserved communities and emerging reading cultures in developing countries.


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