It has been established that the first case of COVID-19 may have been confirmed weeks before the noted cases which were found at the end of December in Wuhan, China, Hubei province. If you came to me back then and we found ourselves in conversation, about how a deadly virus threatening to wipe out half the world’s population had originated from Bats and got passed onto other animals then they transferred it to humans, I imagine having brushed you off with a comment on how I’ve played Plague Inc and due to the ingenuity of the world’s health industry I have doubts that it has much of a chance to happen in real life.
Coming back to the present moment South Africa announced its first case of SARS-CoV-2, also known as Coronavirus or COVID-19 if you will, on 5th March 2020 and the country has since been getting ready for one of the worst pandemics in history. The President declared a National State of Disaster in attempts to reduce the increase in infections by introducing a National Lockdown. This state is a first for many South Africans and nobody is really certain as to how ready or prepared we are as a country to deal with the challenges brought on to our shores by this deadly Coronavirus. Every day I take moment to look at the number of infections rise exponentially by the hour and think about rural communities who may not be aware of what has hit our continent. I believe these are the most vulnerable people who will get affected the most by the challenges brought on by COVID-19. It is now 15 Days into the first 21 day lockdown which has been extended further by two weeks, technically making it day 1 of 21 again. This all happening while South Africa has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the continent currently at 2542, Egypt at 1699, Algeria at 1666, Morocco at 141, and the continent combined is sitting with 12542 confirmed cases. If this number multiplies, the whole continent could be doomed by the time we hit the peak of our winter season in June and that could be a catastrophe for many developing nations found in our resource rich continent, Africa. I read an article by my colleague Nico where he briefly touched on the economic impact this virus has made on our continent and also for people who need to be outdoors in order to feed their families. Having locked down at home, there is literally no further place for us to run and the only option we have now is to fight for our survival by all means. Africa has the world’s largest growing labor force and our Digital Boom has been growing rapidly over the past 5 years to date. This means we do have the tech and digital skills needed to solve some of the most complex issues we are facing due to the spread of Coronavirus on our continent. All we need is one central place to connect, collaborate, and scale our solutions out into other countries.
My colleague Anda recently posted an article where he shares some detail of what The Combat COVID-19 Africa platform will be offering. A cloud based platform that will connect software and app developers, data scientists and researchers, network engineers and telecommunications specialists, health practitioners and more other individuals who wish to develop solutions that will lead to a COVID-19 free Africa. This is how we plan to fight from our end, if we leverage on the network effect and get more volunteers to build projects on the platform then we stand a good chance at helping each other as African nations to stop the spread of COVID-19 while providing a library of data and tools for future studies and work. On the Combat COVID-19 Africa platform, we allow volunteers to register on as one of three users. Digital Volunteers Are people who have programming capabilities, they will be able to join other teams and develop projects or contribute existing projects that are aimed at addressing one problem. Once a solution has been tested and proven to work in one country, then it can be modified and scaled out into other countries who do not have that solution in place yet so they can save time developing it from scratch. Data Donors Are people who can produce ordinary data or work with big data, they will be able to upload records of any data they may have collected. Each country will have a team dedicated to validating the data before it can be processed and used for making informed decisions regarding the state of our continent during this pandemic. This is to ensure that each country is responsible for the data uploaded under their section and they can use this to study the virus for a better understanding. Stakeholders Are people who represent Communities, NGOs, Government Authority or Legislative Departments, and Health Practitioners in various countries across Africa. These people have high-level decision making power and through their support, Digital Volunteers and Data Donors will be able to make use of the platform without violating any laws of any African country. The Stakeholders will be the ones who we can rely on to interact with the projects being developed and provide input or feedback which will aid the process until a project can be scaled out
The platform will provide cloud computing resources which will be accessible to the volunteers and built to handle high processing speeds. For the Mass Collaboration to be effective, the idea is to avoid repetitive work by allowing Digital Volunteers all across our continent to engage and collaborate on one platform in real time because information is a crucial weapon to have in any fight. We can rely on the Doctors, Nurses, GP's, and Health Practitioners working out in the field as our first line of defense but if they go on their own for too long, they will get defeated.
It is now up to the Tech Community to step in as the 2nd line of defense and start coming together and invest their efforts in collaborating online to make sure that our first line is not lost to the COVID-19 virus while we are sitting in lockdown.
The Combat COVID-19 Africa platform will be launched on the 20th of April. So far we’ve been on a quest to recruit as many volunteers and encouraging people in our networks to participate by either helping us raise awareness, or by registering to join our slack workspace and weekly meeting calls. The question a lot of people usually ask us is how they can get involved and the first step is to register on the website www.combatcovid-19.africa and then take it from there. :)