As its name implies, The Harvard Initiative for Global Health (HIGH) has a far-reaching and ambitious mission: to create a new generation of leaders for global health, and develop new and innovative solutions to the vital problems of global health. HIGH needed a web-based global health communications infrastructure to connect its primary audiences, from researchers, students and faculty, to the general public.
The vision was to provide users with access to a wide range of information resources, including:
- Working papers
- Links to videotaped lectures
- Online datasets
- Online collections of biologic samples
- Blogging tools
- Professional and social networking tools.
At the time of the project, HIGH’s information and research community was not centralized, but spread across various data owners throughout the university.
To support HIGH’s need for a web-based global health communications infrastructure, DIFZ assessed HIGH’s current situation and offered recommendations for an IT solution that would provide new opportunities for collaboration and communication, help researchers more effectively share knowledge, and avoid duplicated effort. DIFZ’s multidisciplinary teams conducted in-depth knowledge acquisition (KA) sessions with key stakeholders, developed a list of recommended IT strategies, and designed a set of user interface prototypes for a potential future web-based portal.
Using DIFZ’s analysis and recommendations, the global health initiative was able to:
- Plan for universal access. Researchers in the field in India or Africa, for example, need access to resources on the portal—regardless of Internet browser, connection speed, computer platform, and method of data submission and access. DIFZ recommended multiple technical and business process strategies and designs to account for these needs up front.
- Increase collaboration. With the proposed portal, HIGH can further Harvard researchers’ knowledge-sharing and collaboration on global health research projects, which will avoid duplication and encourage cross-pollination of ideas and findings.
- Coordinate data collection and maintenance. HIGH faces the complex task of gathering data from multiple schools and organizations to be presented in a single, central place for searching and retrieval. Recognizing that this will involve a concerted effort, DIFZ recommended key best practices and procedures to collect information in a standardized way.
Create a detailed business case. To elaborate on the ways web-based solutions could benefit HIGH’s work and impact, DIFZ produced an extensive business case defining parameters and options to proceed.