Up-to-date, credible and comprehensive information is essential to good forecasting, but requires that key organizations and individuals collect and share high quality data. Currently, funding agencies, procurement agents, technical agencies, global health partnerships, and national buyers each have access to several important data elements but do not systematically share them or invest sufficiently in the focused market research required to build accurate forecasts. This is a result of the uneven distribution of risk. While funders and intermediaries have access to data, they suffer few if any consequences for poor forecasting and thus lack an incentive to share information and to assure its quality. Manufacturers, who directly bear a financial risk for inadequate forecasting, have a disincentive to share information that could make them vulnerable to competitors or to anti-trust allegations. The resulting opacity of data increases demand uncertainty and its associated risks. This suggests the need for an information intermediary, or infomediary, for global health to effectively gather and analyze data needed for demand forecasts across a variety of important diseases and products and to make this information widely available to all stakeholders.
The key functions of the infomediary would be to:
- Serve as a central repository of all relevant demand and supply data by collecting, synthesizing and disseminating information related to forecasting that individual organizations may not be willing or able to share independently.
- Ensure data integrity and perform the labor-intensive tasks of cleaning and analyzing data received from multiple sources.
- Establish a mechanism for ongoing, continuous gathering and updating of core forecasting information.
- Generate transparent, baseline aggregate forecasts by product category based on the information sets provided, to serve as the common starting point for stakeholders to produce their own forecasts. Build aggregate and country level models for generating demand forecasts that consider the unique developing country environment.
- Incorporate information from specific market research studies that are either conducted by the infomediary or other market research firms and stakeholders, to provide a more complete data repository and refine assumptions for forecasts.
- Serve as a neutral party responsible only for information collection and generating baseline forecasts and remain uninvolved in demand generation, advocacy, target setting or other functions that could compromise the integrity and independence of activities, while maintaining strong relationships with public and private supply chain partners and establishing credibility with stakeholders.