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ICT Innovations to Mitigate COVID-19 Considerations

These are considerations shared with the ICT Advisory Committee Advisory Committee on COVID-19 in Kenya when selecting ICT innovation to mitigate COVID-19, based on examples from various countries.

ICT innovation to mitigate COVID-19 should address the following:

  1. Needs of vulnerable population groups - senior citizens and children
  2. Sharing of credible and verifiable information: Ministry of Health (MoH) and World Health Organization (WHO) briefing
  3. Help in identifying symptoms
  4. Information on Testing and health facilities
  5. Social needs: Food and shelter
  6. Mental health and psychological support

A Free-No Internet-No App-required Contact-Tracing and targeted-resource mobilization solution is preferred, as vulnerable people those over 60 years like Cucu do not have smartphones.

1 in 6 Americans does not have a smartphone, especially senior population who are more vulnerable to COVID-19.  It would be important to determine a similar statistic for Kenya. 

 

Use of internet based solution may divert scarce money and cause Kenyans to slide further into debt if the purchase of smartphones and daily internet bundles is required by the tech innovation.

 

 Home-grown tech solutions that do not require the internet and which the vulnerable target population can use, would be cost-effective, easier to rollout.

Ghana's Cognate System is using USSD (used for mobile money) on Opine Health Assistant to track coronavirus symptoms and hotspots and determine if a person has social needs including food and shelter.

Opine Health Assistant users do require the internet or  to download an app. They simply dial *920*222# or *714*444#  then follow the prompts to answer questions on Covid19 symptoms and other risk factors.

For schools, colleges and universities, we could borrow from Ezedine, a young inventor helping Ethiopia's COVID-19 crisis.

The 'watch' Ezedine has developed made of discarded electrical appliances and plastic materials with sensor that rings every time the hand approaches the face; Could be applied to monitor the 1.5 meter physical distancing for our children and youth.

An non-internet-based solutions are best placed deal with privacy concerns such amount of personal data collected, location data recording, data storage, lack of technical safeguards, use of information collected for unrelated purposes, potential to incrementally enhance capabilities in a privacy invasive way and re-identification of anonymised users among others.

Further, it is critical that mental health issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic are addressed.

 

It is important that we identify something and/or someone authentically Kenyan, to give us hope and bring us together to fight a common enemy – COVID-19.  Consideration of mental health in the development of ICT innovations to mitigate COVID-19 and avoid a psychological emergency potentially happening in Italy is critical.

 

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is now part of its national psyche and gives the British national pride well above the Royal Family. The UK government’s consistent messaging in it’s briefings have been:

 

'Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives'

 

Faced with an increased death toll from COVID-19 death currently over 30,000, the British have come up with innovative ways to support the NHS including taking one (1) minute out to clap for essential workers and raise funds for the NHS and its associated charities.

 

 Captain Tom Moore, has become a national hero and beckon of hope, having originally aimed to raise just £1,000 for NHS Charities Together by completing 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday, he has raised over £23m. 

 

Artists have also come together to raise funds through virtual concerts to raise funds for WHO and other organizations fighting COVID-19, the largest probably being the Global Citizen “One World: Together at Home” concert.

 

We should also consider developing ICT innovations to support psychological services such toll free numbers, sending encouraging messages via SMS or other means, TV and Radio programs

 

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