Nigeria declared its victory of the Ebola virus last week. Dr. Omobola Johnson, Minister of Communications Technology, has revealed that a number of Information and Communication Technology tools assisted in containing the deadly virus.
The current Ebola epidemic in western Africa is the worst outbreak of the virus since its discovery, with Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea being the worst-affected countries. So far the virus has killed over 4,500 people. Thomas Eric Duncan recently made headlines in the U.S. when he was diagnosed with Ebola at a Texas hospital after returning from a trip to West Africa. He was the first person in the U.S. to have died of Ebola.
Mobile technology and the internet are assisting doctors with “contact tracing” to ensure anyone who has come into contact with a person who has contracted this deadly disease will be hospitalized and treated. In Nigeria, ICT tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, and an Android app were used to reduce reporting times of infections by 75% (Okonji, 2014).
Pieterse (2005) has stressed the need to put more emphasis on telephone, radio and television to provide information-for-development to people living in remote areas. Nigeria has seen a steep increase in mobile use over the past years with mobile phones being predominantly used for receiving data. Taking advantage of the internet and mobile phones, Nigeria was able to scan test results to tablets and upload them to emergency databases. Field teams were then alerted of results via text messages (Okonji, 2014). Due to immediate tracking and quick communication, the virus was able to be contained in Nigeria.
App-loaded mobile phones are now being shipped to other western African countries in an effort to get the epidemic under control (Bennett, 2014). Cell phone users dialing emergency call centers are being tracked for their location by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Apps allow for data logging of symptoms and locations of those who came in contact with the virus and further enable a mapping service to show where assistance is needed (Strohm, 2014).
The affected countries are taking adequate measures to contain the virus and overcome limited connectivity. Collaboration between global health organizations and mobile networks, application developers, and Smartphone providers is necessary to educate and inform the poor. Governments need to focus on getting the outbreak under control as a global outbreak would have catastrophic consequences.
Bennett, Simeon (20 October 2014). WHO Cites Nigeria’s Response to Halt Ebola as Blueprint. Bloomberg.
Cornish, Stephen (07 August 2014). ‘A job on this scale requires a coordinated global response’: Stephen Cornish on Ebola. A Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders.
Okonji, Emma (27 October 2014). Nigeria: Minister Attributes Victory Over Ebola Virus to ICT Tools. THISDAY.
Pieterse, J.N. in: Lovink, Geert & Zehle, Soenke (2005) The Incommunicado Reader. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.
Sack, Steve (25 September 2014). Cartoons of the day: The fight against Ebola. Star Tribune.
Strohm, Chris (22 October 2014). Ebola Fighters Enlist Texts in Bid to Curb Outbreak. Bloomberg.
Supercomputers Combat Ebola in Sierra Leone (27 October 2014). Bloomberg.