Digital champion: Khadija leads HISP in transforming healthcare

What you need to know:

  • Khadija cites obstacles in carrying out her work, citing the industry’s predominance of men and the lack of inclusive working procedures in non-governmental organisations

Dar es Salaam. Khadija Mzava, the Implementation Team Lead for HISP Tanzania, is leading the way in implementing intricate digital health development projects, such as the Chanjo Covid and Pima Covid systems, to advance development outcomes in the fields of zoonotic health, disease surveillance and response, and maternal and child health.

She is in charge of a group that works with international partners such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation, the University of Oslo, PACT, an international non-profit that develops evidence-based and data-driven solutions for human development in nearly 40 countries, and several regional governments.

She has led cross-functional teams for more than six years at HISP Tanzania, where she ensures that digital health systems are operating at peak efficiency to satisfy organisational objectives while boosting user experience, strengthening security, and optimising system performance.

“My team has worked on impactful projects, including the national Pima Covid and Chanjo Covid systems and works to drive development outcomes forward in the areas of child and maternal health, zoonotic health, and disease surveillance and response,” she said. Explaining, she said her position as the Information Systems Implementation Team Lead entails leading the team in understanding the specific challenges that organisations and project teams are facing, guiding the team (with a diversity of expertise) in putting digital solutions in place to help them solve those exact problems, as well as managing projects throughout the implementation.

“I always desired to work in healthcare and with my computer science background, blending technology into health seemed like a go-ahead,” she said.

According to her, she majored in computer science after seeing a need for technology in health. She said she saw it as an opportunity to be part of the healthcare space through technology and development.

She said that she later mastered health informatics to have the niche skills required to advance development in the health technology field. She explained that she was motivated to take the job because of the organisation, where growth and excellence at a global standard are prioritised.

According to her, embracing a challenge by joining a male-dominated industry, even though HISP Tanzania has a majority of women, is not the industry norm. “The opportunity to work on several different projects in different countries and with global partners.

HISP Tanzania is part of the global network and a regional trusted partner to the HISP Centre at the University of Oslo to provide digital health and information systems technology solutions,” she said.

She explains that she works on supporting governments including Tanzania, Somalia, South Sudan, Eritrea, and Lesotho, where UN organisations collaborate with international NGOs and development partners.

Highlighting the challenges in implementing her work, she said it is an overwhelmingly male-dominated industry, and working practices are not NGO designed to be inclusive for women.

“Harnessing skills outside of your direct expertise and navigating complex political environments, language barriers, and cultural patterns, including our work with WHO in Somalia,” she said.

However, she said she was able to overcome the challenges because she was part of an agile environment at HISP Tanzania, where on the technical side there was a capable and supportive team, and on the professional or individual side, she represented herself as part of an organisation with many other women navigating a similar environment.

On her achievements, she said Chanjo Covid and Pima Covid developed a world-class solution in response to a global health challenge in an impressive time frame.

She said turning data into action with a Health Management Information System in Somalia, Tanzania, South Sudan transformed healthcare data accessibility by creating a solution that lets people access data instantly on their phones or tablets, anytime, anywhere.

Further, she notes that she was able to successfully meet the Eritrea Ministry of Health’s data needs, even without internet access

 She explains that they also assist Tanzania’s Ministry of Health with Data Reporting and Approval Processes instantly on their phones or tablets, anytime, anywhere, spreading experience, knowledge, and skills in digital solution development and implementation across Africa and beyond through capacity building.

Regarding family and work, she said she can juggle both through prioritisation and setting boundaries to ensure neither is affected. “I delegate tasks and responsibilities to ensure neither suffers,” she said.

She notes that other women can learn from embracing the opportunity to be pioneers by being the first woman in space without fear.

“Our President, Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan, is a premium example of this; she has continued to win the hearts of Tanzanians and other political stakeholders for her resolve to bring the nation together through her reconciliation initiative built in the 4 Rs: reconciliation, resilience, reforms and rebuilding,” she said.