Global coronavirus (COVID-19) infections have now exceeded 200,000 cases and fatalities have since crossed 8,000. The pandemic has traveled far and wide to over 160 countries and territories across the globe.
The world, as we know it, has pretty much shut down. International travel bans have become the order of the day, entire cities are on lockdown, public gatherings have been banned, schools have been forced to close down, more than 40 global conferences and events have been canceled, “social distancing” has become part of everyday lingo, and doomsdayers are feasting.
While the pandemic may not be as wild in Africa as it is other continents, there can be no room for complacency, especially as infections are starting to spike in Africa.
As at press time, COVID-19 cases in Africa are approaching 500, drawn from 30+ countries and more than a few deaths have been recorded, effectively rubbishing earlier claims that the virus might be racist. Yes, there were misguided talks of COVID-19 having a go at everyone except people of colour.
It can be argued that, of the various parts of the world where the coronavirus has wreaked havoc, the healthcare systems in the African continent are probably the least prepared to handle a full-blown viral outbreak. And this is why proactivity, rather than reactivity, is being advised as the way to go.
African Tech Leaders Take On COVID-19
Speaking of proactivity, a number of players in African tech have stepped forward in the last 12-14 hours to drum up financial and structural support for tech interventions that can help African countries fight COVID-19. And win.
Earlier today, we reported that Ventures Platform, a Pan-African venture capital (VC) fund that is headquartered in Abuja, Nigeria, is offering both financial and structural support to hackers, developers, enthusiasts and founders who can use their tech skills to give life to projects aimed at tackling COVID-19.
Similarly, TechCrunch reported that one of the largest innovation incubators in Africa, CcHub, is offering funding and engineering support to tech projects aimed at curbing COVID-19 and its social and economic impact.
CcHub’s CEO, Bosun Tijani, said his platform will provide between USD 5 K to USD 100 K to companies with COVID-19-related projects touching on such areas as last-mile communication, support for the infected and the most vulnerable, production of essential medical supplies and support for disrupted food supply-chains.
And here’s a look at some of the tech-enabled COVID-19-related projects that could really help the African continent beat the pandemic
Global Digital Health Solutions for International Coronavirus Response
Donor institutions like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Department for International Development (DFID), World Bank, and Gates Foundation are seeking global digital health solutions for international COVID response, especially those that can be implemented by government health systems in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
ICTWorks claims to have spoken to Global Digital Health Network – over 4,000 digital health practitioners – for their thoughts on which digital health solutions would be applicable and most-suitable for COVID-19 response in LMICs.
And here are some proven tech projects focused on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment that can be replicated on the African continent and used to tackle COVID-19 in Africa.
1. Harmony Data Analysis
Harmony is a rapidly deployable data integration and advanced analytics platform for epidemic surveillance, case management, and outbreak response.
Quite, recently, Mozambique used these capabilities to stage an effective, data-driven response to a cholera outbreak which reportedly reduced the daily number of new cases in the most affected province from 400 to zero in one month.
2. mHero Health Worker Communications
mHero is a two-way, mobile phone-based communication system that uses basic text messaging or SMS, to connect ministries of health and health workers. mHero operates on simple talk-and-text mobile devices—no smartphone or tablet required.
Previously, IntraHealth International developed mHero with the government of Liberia and UNICEF for the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, where over 10,000 people lost their lives. Now, Liberian ministry officials are using mHero to send COVID-19 messages to health workers.
3. nCoV Surveillance System
This first came to the fore in Sri Lanka. The country’s Ministry of Health developed a web-based DHIS2 solution to capture information on high-risk passengers entering the country from at-risk countries for active COVID-19 surveillance.
nCoV Surveillance System captures demographics, immigration, symptoms of COVID-19 disease, and possible contacts at all ports of entry, for local public health officers, based on their geographic area. From 0-14 days, it captures potential symptoms of COVID-19 disease and any action taken.
After 14 days, it captures symptoms of COVID-19 disease and any action taken at the end of the surveillance period.
4. Community Health Toolkit
Community Health Toolkit is a global public tool that includes open-source technologies for Community Health Workers and supervisors; open-access resources; and a community of practice to advance universal health coverage.
Community Health Toolkit can support Covid-19 response through community and event-based SMS/USSD check-ins by self-quarantined persons, educational messaging including protective measures for CHWs, and communities, referrals and treatment adherence, and data harmonization with other platforms.
5. CommCare Case Management
CommCare is an open-source mobile case management platform used by frontline health workers in various countries to track clients through a continuum of service delivery, commodities supply chain, and patient messaging.
CommCare allows non-engineers can build and adapt mobile applications for contact tracing, data collection, decision-support, client tracking, SMS-interaction, and map-based visualizations.
Featured Image Courtesy: WHO