With the Ebola outbreak spreading across parts of Africa, IT experts started pondering whether modern mHealth technologies could make a difference.
This Information Week piece suggests that could be the case but the tools are not ready for immediate action. Nevertheless, with the growing number of people owning mobile phones in Africa, they could at least be informed via SMS what to do and where to go in situations like these. It is expected that by 2015, Africa’s mobile user base hits 1 billion, making mobile a viable channel for communications during epidemics of any proportion.
Similarly, geo-referenced data could play a pivotal role in tracking and controlling the spread of the virus. Epidemiologists could rely on data on positive diagnoses and confirmed vectors, and use them in their planning tool arsenal.
Geo-referenced data could play a pivotal role in tracking and controlling the spread of the virus.Finally, smartphones and other cellular-connected diagnostic devices could help diagnose people in rural areas which more often than not are left underserved.
But, we’re still not there. In the U.S. there is a service like Sickweather that places information from social media on a live map to show disease occurrences. Something similar is still not possible in emerging markets where the majority of users still use feature phones (rather than smartphones), and seldom if ever turn to social media to share information.
So yes, we expect to see advances here with the likes of GSMA, WHO and UN leading the way. Alas, we’ll have to wait for another year or so before this technology is ready for prime time.