Egypt to launch digital hub to help Africa better track and control disease outbreaks
A new disease control hub is set to be launched in Egypt, which will use technology to trace and control diseases, predict outbreaks and engage communities in affected areas across Africa.
The African Health Data and Disease Control Hub (AHDCH) is an initiative by the Government of Egypt through the Egyptian Agency of Partnership for Development (EAPD), with the Association of Friends of the National Cancer-free Initiative (AFNCI) as its implementing partner and Microsoft providing technology support for the platform development. The initiative comes in-line with the African Union’s call for an integrated and innovative effort to improve prevention, detection, and response to public health threats. EAPD and its partners are launching this regional initiative at this year’s Africa 2016 Forum in Egypt.
The AHDCH was conceptualised in response to the lessons learned from the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which affected more than 20 000 people, and showed that prevention and control of disease outbreaks requires coordinated action and greater national, regional and international collaboration. The hub will include a state-of-the-art virtual platform developed on a scalable backbone infrastructure, accompanied by provision of capacities, services and tools for various stakeholders and communities.
To be headquartered in Egypt, the hub will leverage the country’s recent advancements in ICT and data infrastructure, its commitment to the healthcare, pharmaceutical and environmental industries, as well as its capacity development and training expertise. However, it will act as a one-stop solution for all African countries, providing a nationwide directory of diseases, prevention methods, medical facility maps, vaccinations and medications. In addition, it will publish government efforts, news and campaigns, as well as provide communication tools to reach out to African citizens and raise awareness. This multi-stakeholders’ initiative is open for collaboration and contribution by various relevant national, regional and international organizations.
“There is a lot of momentum and enthusiasm at both regional and international levels for a disease control hub, following the Ebola outbreak,” says Ambassador Dr. Hazem Fahmy, Secretary General of EAPD, leading sponsor of the initiative. “The spread of diseases poses a threat to African stability, growth and international security. The AHDCH aims to play a primary role in disease control, enhancing the quality of life of citizens in affected areas, and helping African countries achieve their Sustainable Development Goals around health and the environment.”
As the technology partner, Microsoft will provide the primary technology, knowledge and expertise for the development of the hub’s digital solutions.
“We are using our cloud platform to make the AHDCH a central portal, where governments, policy makers, non-profits, researchers and other organisations from across Africa can collaborate on disease control,” says Khaled Abdel Kader, General Manager of Microsoft Egypt. “Through Microsoft’s Azure for Research Initiative, researchers will be able to take full advantage of the power and scalability of cloud computing for collaboration, computation, and data-intensive processing.”
Customised training will be handled by the AFNCI, who will also manage the day-to-day operations of the hub, including collecting data, generating reports and maintaining an active community of users.
“The sustainability of this project really depends on a coordinated effort. Training will play a key role in ensuring we have capable and active users on the ground, in various African countries, who know how to use and contribute to the features of the hub. We are eager to work and exchange precious knowledge and expertise with our African colleagues and potential partners,” says Dr Sherif Abouelnaga, AFNCI Secretary General.
“Through this regional project, Egypt is striving to invest and transfer its health sector success in preventive health policies, vaccination programs and pharmaceutical industries to support Africa in its endeavour to achieve health protection and face the potential outbreaks by continuous cross border cooperation and supply of necessary skilled professionals, vaccinations and pharmaceuticals,” says Dr. Madiha Khattab, former Dean of Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, who is acting as health adviser to the AHDCH.
The completion of the hub is targeted for December 2016, with a roll-out over a period of three years to ensure its sustainable functioning, funding and quality performance.