Sharing is Caring – the Digital Health Data Summit took place this week in Riga
We talked about the importance of data aspects in Latvia and the political aspects around the summit with Mr. Rolands Lappuķe, External Smart Technology Adviser to the President of Latvia.
Mr. Lappuķe is one of the key organizers and was a speaker at Digital Health Data Summit this week.
Q: Latvia strongly promotes research and innovation – what is the government’s strategic view on digital health service and DATA in Latvia.
We presently see a quantum leap in the way information (or DATA that is) are used. It is similar to what happened in the early 16th century when Martin Luther made use of the world-changing discovery of Johannes Gutenberg’s revolution in publishing – the printing press.
(editor’s note: Martin Luther made his translation of the Old Testament easier accessible by help of letterpress printing and sold it to the population at a low price. As a result, he gained many followers, since everyone was now free to read the scriptures at will.)
Keeping this example in mind, medicine is changing the character from purely curing sick people to predict what can happen, based on probability. Preventive medicine and research needs sound data as a basis. Genetic database and genome research allow predicting — and diminish — risks for patients with a susceptibility for certain diseases.
“The political reason to support the development and regulation for digital health data is to better help their people.”
Digital health is an important aspect for therapy and data help to bring developments into the right directions. This is relevant for all countries, small or big, poor or rich. Besides the medical aspects, there are many social and economic reasons for introducing technology, which helps in many ways to reduce repetitive work patterns and to allow jobs which are more responsible and thus provide more purpose to the life of people.
And reaching beyond the availability of the technology, it also has to be well organized and give proof for its efficiency.
An economic reason for Latvia to engage in the subject is that it will gain competitive advantages as a member country in the European Union. We are part of the “Declaration of Cooperation – Towards access to at least 1 million sequenced genomes in the European Union by 2022“ which was launched in April 2018 **
**The initiative is open to EU, EEA and EFTA countries and to date, 21 Member States and Norway have signed it. Six countries are official Observers: Belgium, France, Denmark, Ireland, Poland and Switzerland. The goal of this cooperation is to set mechanisms by which genomic databases containing sequenced genomes across Europe can be accessed and linked for analytical purposes, with a robust governance model and in full compliance with data privacy regulation. “
(Definition taken from https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/germany-joins-1million-genomes-initiative)
“We want to add value, to collaborate, to provide good research and diagnostics. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will help to adapt the offers to the patients’ needs — tools need to be assessed and research needs to be controlled. So all of this is part of the task”
Latvia has a health database — in the BMC (Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre) Genomic analysis of high quality is already provided — e.g. for the above mentioned European Project “Beyond 1 Mio genomes” — more information, also a list of collaborating partners — to be found on the website of BMC.
Finland is a leading destination in this range of data research. Findata participated in the conference which we are very proud of. Estonia also has a strong genetic database already, but Latvia makes progress in developing the necessary infrastructure as well. One example is the initiative mainly by two companies MikroTik, a leading Latvian router company, and LMT, a major telecommunication company, to develop a high-capacity data network (the Genome Data Network) between main hospitals, research institutions, sequence producing entities and others in Riga. A next step to connect the GDN in Riga with the very well developed Institute of Genomics of the University of Tartu in Estonia is being concretely considered. It is getting international!
“This network offers a 10 Gbps data transfer rate that significantly decreases the amount of time needed for genome data relocation. The digital size of a genome is measurable in hundreds of gigabytes, and increasing the data transfer rate can significantly accelerate the work of scientists battling with COVID-19 as well as conducting research projects on cancer and other severe diseases. Enabling scientists with such a high-capacity data network is a significant step towards further development of 5G solutions for medical and scientific purposes.”***
*** (Info taken from https://innovations.lmt.lv/en/news/lmt-provides-a-high-capacity-data-network-for-scientists-to-help-battle-cancer-and-combat-the-covid-19-crisis)
Better health for patients is a national issue in Latvia – our president puts emphasis on a digital policy enabling the health targets. With his background of being a judge at European Court of Justice for many years, he is personally interested in developing technologies with a strict consideration of the protection of privacy and patients’ rights for health data.
And data security issues do not only refer to the health segment – whole administration systems will be digitalized and an E-ID – electronic signature – is already quite normal across parts of the government and was naturally promoted amongst entrepreneurs because of remote professional activities during the COVID-19 crisis.
Another international tech innovation company from Latvia, Tilde, has developed an multilingual neural machine translation, which is just one more example of integrated technological service being used by EU presidencies for instant translating, including by the present German EU presidency. “Tilde drives innovation in European language technologies” more info
To demonstrate more of our country’s capability in smart technology: In fighting the 2020 pandemic, Latvia was coming up with an app solution to identify infection tracks at a very early stage. The app was built in six weeks as the result of a pro-bono not-for-profit initiative with participants from the country’s private sector and has earned national endorsement. While other country and state initiatives were underway to develop contact tracing apps, the Latvian “Apturi Covid” initiative was ready to share the code for use in other countries and it was the first one to be launched. Nowadays it is among the first applications being interoperable in Europe.
More reading on the website of LMT
To be able to act immediately in the initial period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the newly elected president gathered all constitutional organizations in Latvia in order to define the legal framework within which the state institutions were going to work and take decisions. There it was emphasized that useless formalism shouldn’t be a pretext to impede decisions when they were to be made clearly in public interest because of an extraordinary crisis situation. So the e-Saeima – a digitalized parliament functioning could be developed allowing the MP’s to keep on making decisions.
“We used common sense and kind of self-censorship and self-discipline to not trespassing rules of democracy by intensive and frequent discussion across all stakeholders.”
Q: Latvia is so advanced in technology and smart developments in collaborations — how do you see the future of developing also the destination brand across all institutions involved in international collaborations? Would you support that approach of building what we in the meetings’ industry call a “business community” and accept the meetings’ industry promoters in Latvia being a supportive arm in this?
My personal opinion is that in such cases we need to ensure an overall high quality of promotion and its content — the “meaning” or purpose — so official and governmental organizations can identify with it and join in the efforts — like in the Digital Health Data summit.
Latvians are maybe sometimes too modest to demonstrate what great achievements we have. So probably we can learn from the tourism and meetings promotion side. COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot in 2020 — also very likely the patterns of travel and meetings organization are concerned.
There will be a more critical approach as to what is important enough to travel personally and what can be handled virtually, with no travel involved. The need to personally meet people will remain there in many cases — for commercial but also for personal reasons.
We all need to apply more discipline and high expectations to quality and outcome of content, to justify travel in the future. Once more, we have a turning point and “quantum leap” here in the development of societies. COVID-19 has supported to switch from a “narcissistic” way of travelling everywhere, to a purpose driven way of taking decisions.
More discipline will have to be applied in deciding where to go and why, and about relevance of the content. For our emotional landscape based on brain’s limbic system it is important to personally connect with people and to feel the right chemistry for connecting and business making with someone. For that matter, personal contacts and connections are necessary and essential.
Thank you very much for sharing your views, Mr. Lappuke!
About LIAA – Investment and Development Agency of Latvia
With the brand “Magnetic Latvia”, the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) works to increase export and competitiveness of Latvian companies, facilitate foreign investment and implement tourism development and innovation policies .
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