The Opine Health Assistant platform, launched on March 26, collects information from residents about their possible symptoms and location of the coronavirus through an abbreviated USSD code, says Kwabena Nuamah, co-founder of Cognate Systems.
USSD is used when you dial a number that begins with * and ends with # to top up your phone credit or make a bank transfer.
“To use the platform, they must dial the short code * 920 * 222 # or * 714 * 444 # on their cell phones and then follow the instructions to answer questions about symptoms and other risk factors,” Nuamah told CNN.
“It’s free and users can use it on any type of mobile device, even without credit,” he added.
He also asked if they needed essential supplies such as food and shelter following the pandemic.
“When people fill out the form, with the information they provide, we can analyze and predict whether the person is likely to be infected with the virus. We can also use the location of those who have symptoms to predict new regions that are likely to be affected by the virus. “he said.
The data collected by USSD is integrated into Opine Health Assistant and the information provided by the public on coronavirus is displayed on maps and graphs to facilitate understanding, monitoring and sharing.
Where does the data go?
According to Nuamah, the collected data will be shared with public health experts, data scientists, humanitarian workers and disease surveillance teams who are best suited to understanding the information and can use it to provide local solutions to the coronavirus.
Nuamah ays Opine Health Assistant is helping the country predict the next possible high risk areas for the virus so that it is better prepared to handle the pandemic.
So far 6,000 people have used it.
“We have seen some patterns in the past few days that we have launched. We have seen that the spread of the virus in Ghana has occurred mainly in the Greater Accra region and the Ashanti region,” he said.
“From the data we got, we were able to see some patterns to suggest that the eastern region would have had cases of the virus before it was reported. And nearly 24 hours after predicting the spread of the virus in that region, about 16 reported cases have been reported there, “he added.
With the tool, he said, experts and disease surveillance agencies in Ghana can begin to prepare to contain coronavirus before it hits a particular region.
Supply of essential supplies
Opine Health Assistant also connects the public with agencies and non-profit organizations that provide essential supplies and relief materials.
Part of the data collected at the time of filling in the form generated by the USSD code is information on where a person lives and if they need essential elements such as food and accommodation.
“For people who may need food or shelter, within the series of questions, there is a party asking for their position. We pass the positions on to the help providers who are in our databases such as churches and NGOs.” Nuamah said.
“If a person claims to be in Accra, for example, and needs food. We share this information with Accra’s emergency services providers so they can identify people in that region and match them to supplies,” he added.
Nuamah says the team has been in contact with the Ghanaian government and one of their goals is to induce the Ghanaian government to use its platform to identify coronavirus symptoms and hotspots.
After the coronavirus pandemic, Opine Health Assistant will be used to monitor several diseases in Ghana, according to Nuamah.
“We are already thinking outside the current pandemic. In the future, we want to be able to give information on the types of viruses that come from different parts of the globe. We do not want to chase cases after they have occurred, we want to be able to predicting incoming cases for different diseases. “