Information Technology for Development Special Issue Call for Papers

Global Engagement in Health Information Systems: Achievements, Emerging Challenges, and Promising Approaches for Development

Information Technology for Development

The aim of this special issue is broadly two-fold:

i) consolidate and take stock of more than two decades of research and practice in the domain of health information systems in developing countries and,
ii) identify contemporary and future challenges in this domain, and approaches to addressing them.

We expect contributions to this special issue to be developed by a range of groups, such as researchers, practitioners, donors, policy makers, Ministries of Health, civil society organizations, and end-beneficiaries.  

Globally, over the last two decades, research and practice has engaged in attempts to build sustainable national health information systems and to enhance their role in improving health outcomes. Health information systems are now well acknowledged by the global community as key strategic elements for strengthening health systems. Taking a health systems strengthening perspective - of which health information systems are integral parts - we must attend to various inter-connected components such as software, hardware, networks, supporting infrastructure and standards, governance processes, people and their capabilities, practices, institutions, culture, etc.

While the global engagement in research and practice on health information systems has contributed to many important achievements, some longstanding challenges remain unresolved and new ones are emerging. New opportunities have emerged to address these challenges, including the availability of new ICTs - such as systems for community health informatics, patient-centered care, GIS-based spatial analysis, mobile Internet and other technologies. Today, there are much larger investment dollars seen in health information systems through donors, governments, and philanthropic organizations. Despite these enhanced opportunities and resources, we still see limited evidence of how these health information systems initiatives have contributed to improved health outcomes, and to advancing the state of the poor in developing countries.

The Health Information Systems Programme (HISP) is an action research and development network and movement which, over the last two decades, has engaged in strengthening national health systems in multiple countries. The key strategy of HISP is to link research, education and practical systems development and implementation on open source platforms, in and across multiple countries in the South. HISP has contributed to the establishment of reasonably well functioning systems for data collection and processing. However, much remains to done on promoting and institutionalizing information use, and in assessing the impact of these systems. Moreover, as there are also other similar networks around open source software - such as OpenMRS, iHRIS, openLMIS - that operate in developing countries, there may be many opportunities for mutual learning around action, research, and capacity building processes.

HISP provides a unique model of global networking and engagement through action research, which links university departments in the North and South with policy making bodies like WHO and Global Fund, and with Ministries of Health and civil society organizations in developing countries. We strongly believe that building such robust and heterogeneous networks are key to sustainable and resilient health information systems. However, this model also comes with its own unique challenges – e.g. those associated with balancing action and research, creating channels of funding which remain loyal to the goal of sustainable national public health information systems, and building sustainable capacities in countries.

For further topics for submission focus, please see below.

Submission Details

Submission deadline: August 31st 2017

We will accept manuscripts of different types:

  • Research articles: Methodologically and theoretical sound and relevant for the special issue.
  • Systematic reviews: Exhaustive assessments of research on topics relevant for this special issue.
  • Policy and practice: Assessments and debates on policy on practices on topics relevant for this special issue.
  • Lessons from the field. Experiences and practices related to specific topics relevant for this special issue.
  • Perspectives. Views or discussions related to specific topics for this special issue.

Authors are invited to submit anonymized original papers using the journal submission and reviewing website In order to submit your paper, please register through this website to create an account. When uploading your paper please indicate that it is being submitted for this special issue “Global Engagement in Health Information Systems”.

For more information on how to submit, please follow the journal’s instructions for authors.

For any questions and enquiries, contact Petter Nielsen (

Your paper must contain original results and must not be submitted elsewhere while it is being evaluated for the Journal of Information Technology for Development. If a duplication is discovered, your paper may be rejected for that reason alone. This journal follows a double blind review process. All papers will undergo a process of one or more rounds of double blind review. Please remember to remove all your personal identifiable information from the main manuscript before submitting it for review.

Submission topics

We seek to solicit submissions on a range of relevant topics, which might focus on the following suggested, but not exhaustive, list of topics organized in four broad thematic areas:

Theme 1: Action research and networking
 - Building, sustaining and evolving global health information networks.
 - Balancing different activities in the network such as action, research, fundraising, and policy advocacy.
 - Building financial sustainability, while responding to different competing interests of donors, universities, and Ministries of Health.
 - Making action networks more mainstream while maintaining ideologies of activism and change from within and from the bottom.
 - Conducting systematic reviews and meta-analysis on research topics of interest.

Theme 2: Demonstrable impacts on health outcomes and broader development processes
 - Methodologies for evaluation of ICT impact on health and development outcomes.
 - Accounts of major impacts of ICTs in improving health and development outcomes.
 - Reflections on what are “good” and “desirable” outcomes.
 - Accounts of how global action research engagement can impact action, research, and practice.
 - Critical reflections on impacts and how can they may be scaled.

Theme 3: Contemporary and unsolved health information systems-related challenges
 - The changing nature of participatory design when the world is the stage.
 - Building local systems that become global, and global systems which can become local.
 - How networks that have taken birth and evolved in the South might help inform and expand IS research in the North.
 - The central challenge of integration and interoperability, and conceptual and practical approaches to addressing them.
 - Building sustainable capacities and capabilities at individual and institutional levels.

Theme 4: Strengthening practices around HIS development, implementation, and use
 - Enabling practices for software development at global and local levels.
 - Building resilient practices around optimal leveraging of cloud capabilities.
 - Enabling country-specific practices of social entrepreneurship around open source software and services.
 - Strengthening mutual linkages between action and research.    

The above list is not exhaustive, and authors are invited to address other topics that they see to be of relevance to this special issue. We would expect all papers to be supported by empirical evidence; they should contribute to improved conceptual understandings and to building local knowledge that can be extended to other settings.

Editorial information

  • Guest Editor: Petter Nielsen, University of Oslo, Norway (
  • Guest Editor: Sundeep Sahay, University of Oslo, Norway
  • Guest Editor: Séamas Kelly, University College Dublin, Ireland