During the Ebola crisis in West Africa, Magpi was used for a wide variety of purposes, as reported in InformationWeek and elsewhere. While much of the collection of data for Ebola happened using the Magpi smartphone apps, folks at CDC decided to take advantage of Magpi’s unique SMS data collection capabilities to broaden the surveillance for Ebola in communities in Guinea-Bissau, a small and poor country of West Africa.
Like many countries in the region, Guinea-Bissau has seen an explosion in the use of inexpensive mobile phones: between 2004 and 2014, the number of mobile subscriptions per population went from about 3% to about 63%.
In this context, the CDC and the Instituto Nacional Saúde Publica (National Institute of Public Health) in G-B, chose to utilize the widespread availability of cheap mobile phones to quickly create an SMS-based surveillance system for Ebola.
Dubbed “zero-reporting”, the system required reporting participants to send one daily text message per day with a simple message: a keyword, #, and then a number representing the number of suspected Ebola cases seen by that reporter.
Remarkably, the entire system was up-and-running in just one work day, as reported in the recent publication of findings:
The SMS system took about eight hours to set up and was operational the day immediately following the training . . . Our preliminary results from this pilot initiative demonstrate that real-time, daily zero-reporting can be implemented in a rapid, cost-effective way in a low resource country.
Clearly, we have moved into a new era of public health reporting when a real-time electronic surveillance system can be made operational in a single day!
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