ICT Clinic (Punch Newspaper)

Deploying technology to fight COVID-19 in Africa [ICT Clinic]

COVID-19 appears to have pocketed the entirety of the human race as it threatens the whole world on a large scale. The virus emanated from Wuhan and has continuously spread across the world, killing thousands. This no doubt has posed a major threat to many of the underdeveloped health care systems in Africa even as it has stretched the healthcare facilities of developed countries to the limits. Technology may, however, just be the best bet to solving this global crisis.

Fortunately, if I may say, technology has advanced in systems and operations, since the world was hit, by the last major pandemic in the 1920s.

Data scientists have constantly leveraged various innovations, to bring solutions to global challenges. Using technology, I believe, can enable us plan and mitigate against the present and subsequent pandemics.

Leveraging technology, data can be obtained, from areas that appear to be disadvantaged in terms of poor accessibility. You would agree with me that some rural communities in Africa are far from being easily accessible, yet they still get hit by the pandemic.

Using machine learning models, data can be obtained from such localities where data gathering has proven to be difficult to obtain, due to inaccessibility. Data from these areas can supply reliable information on health characteristics, demography and lifestyle, among others.

Little information, at this point, could turn out to be very much of value to the front line workers combating the pandemic. Using the insights gathered from the machine learning model, governments and other private firms can begin to understand different regions and therefore make decisions related to specific localised requirement on the continent.

Responses like improvements in infrastructure, emergency funding allocation and other measures can be guided by some spatial information. As of now, financial systems, health-care professionals, medical equipment, are constrained, so it will be highly critical to swiftly identify countries, states, cities, towns and communities that poses higher risk of emergency.

Considering earlier reports from the most hit countries in Africa, there are maps that have shown the concentration of the population, appearing to be susceptible to COVID-19 complications.

Technology can be used to work on related risk factors such as respiratory related diseases, number of people in households and the likes. Insights gathered from this can be used in mapping out risk profiles. Oncethe number of the at-risk population is identified, there can be proper dissemination of public health information that relates to that population.

Through the combination of data sources and readily available geo-tagged surveys from households, machine learning models can make us determine how local communities consume news on the pandemic.

Data indicating TV viewership, newspaper readers, radio listeners and mobile phone users would be available. These insights can be used, in selecting the best channels for targeting the pandemic awareness campaign and also ensuring optimum delivery of messages. Coming to the reality that this pandemic would pose both short and long term consequences, it is very essential to leverage the power of technology while planning for — Finish Reading on the Punch

About the author

Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata Jnr

CFA hosts Tech Trends on Channels Television, writes the ICT Column in the Punch Newspapers & also blogs on cfagbata.com.

CFA currently serves as the African Regional Director of Founder Institute.

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