Infodemiology in the Battle Against Ebola: Mining the Web for Public Health Surveillance

“Infodemiology includes the analysis of queries from Internet search engines to predict disease outbreaks; monitoring people’s’ status updates on microblogs such as Twitter for syndromic surveillance; detecting and quantifying disparities in health information availability; identifying and monitoring of public health relevant publications on the Internet” (Eysenbach, 2009)

Internet data, especially search engine queries and social media postings, have shown promise in contributing to syndromic surveillance for several communicable diseases, including Ebola. Much has been written about the global response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, “lessons learned” have often focused on operational reasons why health systems faltered and why the humanitarian response came late, often taking donors and international aid agencies like the World Health Organisation (WHO) to task for mishandling the crisis.

A systematic review published in 2014 by Nuti and his colleagues, highlighted that in recent years, researchers have been increasingly utilising online search data for a diversity of health topics with some successful applications in the field of infectious disease surveillance, especially in countries with high Internet penetration levels (Nuti et al., 2014).

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Podcast: “Health: Why Tech and Data, Not Aid is the Answer”

 

Mariéme Jamme is a Tech entrepreneur, activist and co-founder of Africa Gathering, a global platform bringing together entrepreneurs and others to share ideas about development in Africa.

In 2012 Southbank Centre launched Africa Utopia, a festival dedicated to bringing art, ideas and discussions on African politics, technology, education and trade from Africa and the African diaspora to audiences in the UK.

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#GFI4SD – Post 3: Can the Latest Technology Be Utilised to Transform Safety Nets and Social Protection, and how?

 

On the last day of the first Global Festival of Ideas for Sustainable Development, which took place in Bonn, one of the main topics to be tackled was: Disruptors to Development: Utilising the Latest Technology to Transform Safety Nets and Social Protection.

Disruptive technologies can be used to achieve social change. One of the main reasons for that is the ability that we have to capture and analyze data. In many occasions though, this “power” can be proved to be a double edged sword. As mentioned during the discussion: “technology is a knife, you can use that to cook or to kill people“.

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#GFI4SD – Post 2: Can Data Be Harnessed to Protect People, and How?

The final day of the three-day Global Festival of Ideas for Sustainable Development raised this overarching question: “how can we protect individuals and communities caught up in shocks and disruptors?”

Data was broadly discussed throughout the various discussion and debates of the day. However, the issue of data had already been introduced the day before during the closing session entitled “Harnessing the data revolution to reach the missing millions”, which provided a forum for unpacking the data challenge underpinning the goal of leaving no one behind. Among other topics, a panelist highlighted how her institute created digital maps to visualise mobile internet activities in China, and how it analysed the gaps.

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#GFI4SD – Post 1: Can Data Ensure SDGs Truly ‘Leave No One Behind’?

The inaugural Global Festival of Ideas for Sustainable Development 2017, organized by the UN SDG Action campaign and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), billing itself as “the world’s first playable policy conference”, kicked off in Bonn, Germany, on 1st March. Over 3 days, the conference features High level plenary sessions, presentations, discussion and debates, policy simulations and participatory games based on interactive and immersive technology.

A central theme of the conference is ‘leave no one behind’, a soaring rhetoric that, in its broadest sense, means ensuring that targets and indicators will not be considered met unless they have been met for every person around the globe. In responding to this goal, the conference presents several sessions and discussion centering around what tools the global community and SDG actors need to ensure they have innovative approaches to accomplish their mission.

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