On the 25th of April 2019, the CcHUB Design Lab hosted its first Webinar session on “Advancing Digital Epidemiology in Africa: A Network Approach”, presented by Bosun Tijani. The purpose of the webinar was to engage public health practitioners, data scientists and researchers in exploring how the Public Health and Innovation communities can develop Africa’s capabilities in the field of digital epidemiology through a Network approach.
Digital Epidemiology in Africa: Why now?
With the continuous diffusion of the Internet and the explosion of mobile phone usage in Africa, there is a unique opportunity to improve healthcare services in many ways including through strengthening epidemiology. Digital epidemiology can be broadly defined as epidemiology that uses digital methods from data collection to data analysis. Further narrowed down, it can be defined as epidemiology that uses data generated outside the public health system, i.e. with data that was not generated with the primary purpose of doing epidemiology (1). There has been an evolution of epidemiology in the last decade due to the increasing availability of big data, and advancements in computing power and data analytics methods (2). Despite the increase in application and awareness of Digital Epidemiology, there is still a significantly low level of awareness in Africa.
In line with its mandate to exploit technology to improve products and processes, and solving significant social and business challenges, through partnerships and networks, the Design Lab is interested in how technology and innovation might be used to create the future of detection and surveillance of diseases across Africa through a Digital Epidemiology Network.
The rationale for a network approach stems out of the reality that knowledge in the new age is embedded in a web of social, economic, contractual and administrative relationships. Within the new social networks, members enjoy great freedom to create, absorb, buy, sell, transform and communicate knowledge, thereby, limiting the barriers to the development, adoption and adaptation of innovation often associated with weak national innovation system. With the deficiencies in individual national innovation systems across Africa, a network approach provides us with a unique opportunity to leapfrog development in digital epidemiology across Africa through shared capabilities and resources.
A Pan-African Network for Digital Epidemiology
The proposed Network was well received by all the participants which included members of organizations such as the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Africa, Christian Aid, African Business Angels Network (ABAN), and Octave Analytics. The objective of the Pan-African Network is to create a multidisciplinary platform of experts in public health, research, data science, and technology in Africa dedicated to promoting innovation and application of digital epidemiology in the continent. The Network will serve as a platform for members to:
- Exchange knowledge on current issues in digital epidemiology
- Lend their expertise and resources to collaborate in the development of ideas, research and applications in digital epidemiology
- Develop a knowledge repository of relevant and authoritative resources in the field of digital epidemiology
- Showcase innovative technology, products and solutions in digital epidemiology
The Network will be open to individuals, private organizations and public agencies who are interested in efficient detection and surveillance of diseases. For inquiries, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Co-Creation Hub
Co-creation Hub (CcHUB) is an innovation center dedicated to accelerating the application of social capital and technology for economic prosperity. CcHUB is Nigeria’s premier living lab designed as a space where work to catalyze creative tech ventures take place. The hub is Nigeria’s first open living lab for technologists, entrepreneurs, tech companies, investors and hackers in and around Lagos. Over the years, CcHUB has provided technological solutions to various sectors of the economy including education, public health, and governance through the various projects the hub is actively engaging in.
About CcHUB Design Lab
Located in Kigali, CcHUB Design Lab is a platform where multiple stakeholders collaborate to explore the application of mature, new and emerging technologies to enable problem-solving to urgent problems in Africa. The Design Lab, which further reinforces CcHUB’s commitment to solving Africa’s biggest development and social challenges, will be powered by a multidisciplinary design team that includes designers, engineers, and researchers, who are experts in their respective fields.