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Sierra Leone pushes ITU members to back tech against Ebola

Olusegun Abolaji Ogundeji | Nov. 10, 2014
Spurred by Sierra Leone, the U.N.'s ITU has teamed up with the GSM Association, the World Health Organization, and the Internet Society, committing resources to a worldwide effort to develop technology tools to help stop the spread of Ebola.

"On a local level, alerts from the app provide current statistics including expanded details on lost lives including health officials and survivors and how to take further precautions to prevent the disease," Turay said via Facebook. "It also helps to keep users engaged in sharing their stories, pictures and videos of popular news briefs around the world about the disease."

Every day, the Emergency Operation Center in Sierra Leone churns out figures on new cases and the latest developments in the fight against Ebola, using several channels to communicate to the public. Apps such as Turay's could be helpful in the effort, though he noted that a major challenge has been the low number of Android and iOS devices in the hardest-hit areas.

On its website, WHO noted that the recent halt of new cases of Ebola in Senegal was achieved not only through the country's rapid infectious disease control work, but also by using a novel SMS-driven platform originally designed in partnership with major mobile phone operators in the country to help people manage diabetes.

The GSMA has also been working with many organizations and individuals to develop tech tools and services, including mobile apps, said spokeswoman Claire Cranton. The tools include WHO's Ebola messaging services delivered via SMS and applications using the USSD protocol; UNICEF's U-Report, a social media application for engaging communities in discussing Ebola issues, monitoring affected areas, polling, and counselling; and Mobilium's Smart Health Pro, which consolidates onto a single user interface a number of services involving supportive care, enhanced diagnostics, improved patient monitoring and health payments.

Cranton added that the GSMA Disaster Response team has also been involved in continuing anti-Ebola efforts by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and has helped update the wider humanitarian and technology community on progress. The GSMA has also been working with The Gates Foundation, and USAID to identify problems in anti-Ebola efforts and prioritize activities.


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