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HISP and DHIS2: Names that reflect our history and our future

The official names of our software platform and organization are now DHIS2 and HISP, not as abbreviations, but as names in and of themselves

The HISP Centre at the University of Oslo began in 1994 as the Health Information Systems Programme (HISP), a collaborative action research project with the University of the Western Cape to support digitization of decentralized health system management in post-Apartheid South Africa. That project ultimately resulted in the first version of the District Health Information Software (DHIS), and the rest is history.

Almost 30 years later, HISP and DHIS2 have become well established names in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where HISP groups work collaboratively with Ministries of Health to build sustainable information systems, and where DHIS2 is the most commonly used system for health information management at a national scale. At the global level, HISP is a key partner in digital health, supported by a coalition of long-term investors and partners, and DHIS2 has been recognized as a Digital Public Good and an effective tool for strengthening health systems and helping drive local innovation in LMICs.

In recent years, we have also seen increasing use of DHIS2 in sectors other than health, such as agriculture, forestry, land use, water and sanitation, criminal justice, multi-sector SDG performance monitoring, and others. In particular, the HISP Centre and HISP groups have been heavily engaged in working with LMIC and international stakeholders in the education sector on using DHIS2 as a digital education management information system (EMIS).

Along the way, we have encountered a surprising barrier: The “H” in the DHIS2 and HISP names. Several HISP groups have told us about the skepticism they encountered from Ministry of Education teams when they asked what “DHIS” and “HISP” stood for and found out that the “H” meant “Health.” Even if the software had all of the features they needed in an EMIS, they were reluctant to adopt a “health” information system for education. The “H” in HISP and DHIS2 reflects an essential part of our history and our ongoing mission, but for the sake of opening the software up to new uses, we realized that we needed to change. So, from 2023 onward, the official names of our software platform and organization are simply DHIS2 and HISP, not as abbreviations, but as names in and of themselves.

DHIS2 has always been designed as a generic software platform for data collection, management, visualization and analysis, so while health has been and remains our highest priority, the idea that people could use DHIS2 in other sectors was built in by design. We hope that adopting DHIS2 as the official name of our software and HISP as the official name of our organization we can honor both our history and decades of work with health partners, while we also encourage cross-sector engagement and support LMICs with free, open-source, and robust digital solutions for better governance and program management at scale–both within the health sector and beyond–in the decades to come.