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Analytical summary - Health information, research, evidence and knowledge

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Botswana has an enabling environment to support information and communication technology (ICT). Public and private funding for ICT has been in place since 1997. Health professionals have access to international electronic journals. In 2005, the Botswana National ICT policy was developed to guide, integrate and coordinate all ICT initiatives.

The major areas addressed by the policy include community access and development, government, learning, health, economic development and growth of the ICT sector, infrastructure, security, legislation and policy. The policy stipulates, as one of its objectives, an enhanced disease control and health care programme.

Over the past few years, there have been several initiatives to expand ICT services in Botswana. The Connecting Communities Programme connects rural, urban and remote areas with affordable computer and Internet services. Kitsong Centres (knowledge centres), which target rural areas, are part of the Government of Botswana's obligation to involve the nation in the social and economic development of the country. Thuto (education) Net links all secondary schools to the Internet and is aimed at reducing the literacy gap between students in rural and urban schools.

The Botswana Information Hub provides a forum for researchers, industry, higher education and business to interact. In the health sector, Local Area Network and Wide Area Network link health facilities within localities, or across localities, respectively, for easy communication, coordination and sharing of resources. The Patient Information Management System computerizes patients’ records to allow interaction of providers and to ease patients’ movement across health facilities. ICT systems are used to manage:

  • commodity procurement and distribution
  • blood inventory and distribution
  • antiretroviral therapy patient information
  • health facility communication in the districts.

Health information is generated through quarterly and annual reports in public and private health facilities and in nongovernmental organizations that provide health services. The information ultimately goes to the Central Statistics Office where it is published and disseminated. Other sources of health information include:

  • reports from various Government-funded and donor-funded programmes
  • policy documents
  • strategic frameworks/plans
  • programme guidelines and procedure manuals
  • programme and project evaluation reports generated by Government and strategic partners.

Population census publications provide information about demographic changes. Reports and publications on surveys, disease surveillance and studies conducted by Government, strategic partners and research institutions provide information on health status trends and sociocultural health status determinants.

The major challenge in securing the right health information at the right time is resource constraint, particularly human resource shortage. There have been reports about inadequate resourcing of the Central Statistics Office and the health facilities where the data should be captured. The problem is compounded by staff movements/transfers that create a need for continuing training. Standardization of reporting also needs improvement to reduce instances of conflicting information in published sources. The country is yet to make health information available in local languages.