IGF 2023 WS #54 Equi-Tech-ity: Close the gap with digital health literacy

Tuesday, 10th October, 2023 (08:30 UTC) - Tuesday, 10th October, 2023 (10:00 UTC)
WS 5 – Room B-2

Digital Divides & Inclusion
Affordable Access
Digital, Media, and Information Literacy
Gender Digital Divide
Skills Building for Basic and Advanced Technologies (Meaningful Access)

Organizer 1: Man Hei Connie Siu, 🔒International Telecommunication Union
Organizer 2: Ananya Singh, USAID Digital Youth Council
Organizer 3: Vallarie Wendy Yiega, 🔒
Organizer 4: Keolebogile Rantsetse, 🔒
Organizer 5: Neli Odishvili, CEO of Internet Development Initiative
Organizer 6: Markus Trætli, The Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Speaker 1: Geralyn Miller, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Rajendra Gupta, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Debbie Rogers, Technical Community, African Group
Speaker 4: Yawri Carr, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Man Hei Connie Siu, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Online Moderator

Vallarie Wendy Yiega, Private Sector, African Group


Neli Odishvili, Civil Society, Eastern European Group


Round Table - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

A. How can comprehensive frameworks and assessment tools be developed to capture and assess different dimensions of digital health literacy, ensuring holistic understanding of individuals' abilities in navigating digital health information and services? B. What strategies towards health equity can be adopted to ensure digital health literacy programs effectively address unique needs and challenges faced by marginalized communities, promote inclusivity and equitable access to digital health resources? C. How can partnerships between key stakeholders including healthcare providers, educational institutions, technology companies, and governments be leveraged to enhance digital health literacy skills, foster collaboration and knowledge sharing to advance health equity?

What will participants gain from attending this session? Internet Governance newcomers will learn about digital health, its benefits and obstacles particularly during COVID-19, and inequalities impacting marginalized communities, including women. Participants with expertise/interests in digital health, policy, digital literacy, and inclusion will gain insights into the complexities of digital health literacy and digital divide's relation to health equity; they will also learn and innovate ideas for strategies to improve digital health literacy and promote fair access to healthcare through technology and policy measures from various key stakeholder perspectives, as well as gain knowledge of policies, regulations, and international cooperation to bridge the digital divide and ensure equitable digital health access. With shared perspectives and experiences from speakers of different regions, stakeholder groups and age, participants could contribute to shaping policy recommendations, guidelines, and frameworks, alongside engaging in knowledge-sharing and potential collaborations with both onsite and online participants from diverse backgrounds, all for ensuring digital health for everyone.


Since 2005, the World Health Assembly encouraged Member States to formulate plans for eHealth services, and healthcare industries have since then embraced digital technologies to improve health coverage, preparedness for health crises, and overall well-being. The progress made through technological advancements, especially during the pandemic, also enabled patient engagement technologies; and alongside technology-enabled breakthroughs in governments and private sectors, health-related care and data became more accessible and affordable. However, has digital health improved overall health equity, or has inadequate implementation and addressing of challenges worsened health inequity and digital divide? 64% globally have technological access, but digital literacy rates are significantly lower. Women also face barriers to healthcare access and information (e.g. gender-based discrimination, limited resources). While the pandemic caused a telehealth surge to fill care access gaps (e.g. more opting for virtual care, remote patient monitoring), low digital health literacy intensifies health disparities and hinders patient engagement, with research supporting how demographics from rural, low-income, and marginalized backgrounds provide/use telehealth less, which widens digital divide and threaten health equity advances. This workshop explores complex dynamics between and seeks innovative policy solutions to challenges regarding digital health literacy, digital divide and health equity, all while recognising digital health potential in advancing healthcare outcomes, but also acknowledging that without adequate digital health literacy, digital divide and thus existing health inequities will be worsened. The workshop will first delve into the multifaceted concept and challenges of low digital health literacy, alongside strategies to enhance digital health literacy across marginalised populations. Concerning the health equity and digital divide intersection, strategies will then be identified surrounding low digital health literacy and related challenges to promote equitable digital health access, all by addressing barriers faced by diverse populations and exploring policy measures to bridge the digital divide from key stakeholder perspectives.

Expected Outcomes

The workshop aims to generate practical and actionable outcomes that contribute to the development and implementation of effective policies and programs to enhance digital health literacy, promote health equity, and foster collaboration among key stakeholders. Key indicators, methodologies, and evaluation criteria in digital health literacy will be identified to create comprehensive frameworks and assessment tools; strategies will be proposed to address challenges faced by marginalized communities and promote inclusivity and equitable access to digital health resources; and collaborative initiatives and best practices will be shared to encourage partnerships among stakeholders. A survey will follow the workshop and contribute to our final report along with participants' QnA and feedback. A report on workshop results will be published on the IGF website for participants and interested parties. The report and blogs will be shared with Internet Governance and youth communities in different regions to raise awareness, share findings, and inspire further ideas.

Hybrid Format: In the Q&A session, both remote and onsite participation is welcomed and highly encouraged in this workshop. With remote participants, the onsite and online moderators will work together to ensure the smooth flow of online participation, such that the online community will have opportunities to engage in discussions and raise questions with an alternating pattern between onsite and remote participation. Online participants could input their questions into the QnA function of the video conferencing platform, and the online moderator would moderate the flow, providing online participants with the opportunity to have their questions answered by our speakers. Online collaboration tools, such as Mural, will be used for interactive exercises and brainstorming sessions; online polling tools will gather instant feedback from both onsite and online participants; and designated hashtags will promote online discussions and insight sharing on social media platforms, promoting engagement and extending the workshop's reach beyond the event.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Despite significant advancements in digital health technologies, addressing the digital divide and enhancing digital health literacy remain critical challenges. Efforts should focus on developing comprehensive frameworks, assessment tools, and strategies to ensure equitable access to digital health resources for marginalized populations.

Collaborative initiatives and innovative policy solutions are essential in bridging the digital divide and promoting health equity through digital health. Stakeholders must work together to develop and implement effective policies and programs that empower communities and improve digital health literacy, ultimately advancing healthcare outcomes for all.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

We should forge international partnerships between governments, healthcare providers, technology companies, and educational institutions to develop comprehensive digital health literacy frameworks and tools, ensuring equitable access to healthcare through technology.

We should take action to address the unique needs and challenges faced by marginalized populations in accessing digital health resources. Support initiatives that promote inclusivity and bridge the digital divide, ensuring health equity for all.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

IGF 2023 WS 54 Equi-Tech-ity Close the gap with digital health literacy REPORT

Digital health is a rapidly evolving field that holds great promise in improving healthcare outcomes and addressing disparities in access to care. This session provided key themes and perspectives surrounding digital health, technology, and social determinants, drawing insights from experts and thought leaders in the field. It emphasized the importance of responsible research and innovation, ethical considerations, youth participation, and the role of technology in emergencies. Additionally, the session underscored the need for collaboration, inclusivity, and the active involvement of ethicists in shaping the future of digital health.

One of the central themes discussed is the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) Framework. This framework seeks to harmonize technological progress with ethical principles, ensuring that digital health technologies align with societal values and respect digital rights. Experts stress the need for policies that uphold accountability and ethical considerations in the development of digital health solutions. It is essential to strike a balance between technological advancements and ethical principles, as industry objectives may sometimes compromise ethical concerns.

The session highlighted the ethical dilemmas that can arise in competitive environments where efficiency, speed, and profit often take precedence. It emphasized the importance of adhering to ethical principles, even in fast-paced technological advancements. 

According to the session, engaging youth in the realm of digital health is recognized as a pivotal strategy to bridge the digital divide and enhance digital health literacy. Young individuals can actively participate in research processes, ensuring that interventions are culturally sensitive and responsive to the unique needs of their communities. Innovation challenges and mentorship programs were also identified as effective tools to guide youth in developing their ideas and solutions. Furthermore, digital health literacy programs can equip young individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate the digital health landscape effectively.

The session advocated for youth participation in Internet governance policies to ensure equitable access to digital health resources. It was revealed that young advocates can make their voices heard in discussions and decision-making processes, driving positive change and promoting inclusivity in healthcare. 

Innovation hubs were suggested as collaborative platforms where young innovators, healthcare professionals, and policymakers can collaborate to create solutions for digital health challenges. These hubs benefit from the involvement of supportive companies and resources, filling innovation gaps and fostering meaningful advancements in the field.

The importance of open science was also underscored, emphasizing the need for open access to data and research. The proposal by Costa Rica for an open science initiative to the World Health Organization (WHO) was recognized as a significant step towards facilitating collaboration and partnerships for the advancement of digital health technologies.

The session acknowledged the pivotal role of technology in emergencies. It was emphasized that technology can protect healthcare professionals and patients during crises, offering vital support and resources to mitigate risks and ensure effective healthcare delivery.

The session concluded by recognizing the value of ethicists in shaping the digital health landscape. Ethicists play a crucial role in ensuring that the development and deployment of AI technologies align with ethical considerations and respect for human values.

In conclusion, this comprehensive session delved into various critical aspects of digital health and technology. It emphasized the importance of responsible research and innovation, ethical considerations, youth engagement, innovation hubs, the role of telemedicine and robotics in pandemics, open science, technology in emergencies, and the involvement of ethicists. 

The insights gathered from this session underline the need for responsible, inclusive, and ethically sound development of digital health technologies. Collaboration, inclusivity, and the active engagement of the youth and ethicists are essential in shaping the future of digital health and improving healthcare outcomes for all.