For decades, learning in global health has depended on a conventional model premised on the scarcity of available knowledge and an emphasis on establishing mechanisms to transmit that knowledge from the center (capital city, headquarters) to the periphery (field, village, training room).
With the Internet, scarcity disappeared. But the economy of high-cost, low-volume training has persisted, with little or no accountability. Worse, transmissive training – replicating the least-effective practices from physical spaces – began to proliferate online in video-based training and webinars.
That economy need to be rebuilt in a digital-first age. It requires a new, long-term infrastructure.
The platforms that could do this are the ones that deeply care about the people they reach, with teams who understand that trust in boundless digital spaces must be earned. It has to come from the heart.
The quality of content also matters, but it is not sufficient.
The quality of conversation in the network – as well as the quality of the ‘pipes’ that connect those in it – matter more.
So does the quality of the relationships, both between the team and its members, but – perhaps even more so – between its members.
There are a number of digital platforms that are trying to connect health workers. In aggregate, it is going to work.
The fledgling efforts have been about how to reach people. The next phase is going to be about rebuilding the knowledge and learning engine that can drive not just performance and results, but also renew meaning and purpose.
This rebuilding will be based on trust. And on transferring ownership from those who initiated these platforms to those who need them.
Trust does not happen because a platform is easy to use. It does not happen because great content is being offered. It is not about getting the “user” to click the “register here” or “join now” calls to action.
We have seen what happens when social media customers are advertisers rather than content creators.
What is the business model for digital health education?
Competition in digital health education can foster a Renaissance for global public health.
We need platforms to succeed if we do not want to remain in the Dark Ages.