Applying the principles for digital development to improve maternal and child health in the Peri-urban areas of Karachi, Pakistan

Document Type

Response or Comment


Paediatrics and Child Health


Low- middle-income countries, including Pakistan, are facing significant obstacles in their efforts to achieve the global targets for maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) defined by the Sustainable Development Goals. Barriers at the individual, health system, and contextual levels undermine healthcare access for pregnant women and children, disproportionately affecting those in low-resource settings. To address these challenges in the high-mortality, peri-urban areas of Karachi, VITAL Pakistan Trust and Aga Khan University launched a digital health intervention (DHI) to stimulate demand for health services and streamline care management for health workers at the primary care level. In this case study, we present a narrative review of the design, development, and deployment of the DHI, an Android-based application, in accordance with the Principles for Digital Development. We draw on the initial experience with implementation to reflect on how each of the nine Principles was considered during different phases of the project lifecycle, focusing on the lessons learned and challenges encountered during this process. By engaging with end-users and understanding the community, we were able to map existing relationships and workflows onto a digital platform to address major challenges hindering service delivery. Leveraging insights from field observations and user feedback, we collaborated with experts in healthcare and technology to develop the DHI, which has now scaled to 44 peri-urban settlements in Karachi. Our experience underscores the value of substantiated frameworks like the Principles. However, on-ground challenges reveal important caveats requiring further assessment. These include building community trust in new digital systems and ensuring the ethical use of health data, particularly in low digital and data literacy contexts. Based on this understanding, we share recommendations for conditions central to the effective integration and uptake of technology in healthcare, specifically within the context of digital health for MNCH.


Pagination is not provided by the author/publisher.

Publication (Name of Journal)

PLOS Digital Health