By: Dolapo Adeyanju
During these challenging times, where there is generally a lot of misinformation and information asymmetry around COVID-19 issues, the tech world has become a reputable solution ground to the widespread of “infodemic” regarding the novel coronavirus in Nigeria.
Through technology, Nigerians have come to realize that an effective tool to get timely information and track the spread of the virus is already in their hands.
Mobile applications and Web platforms have emerged as some of the prevailing tools to educate, test, and track people to curb the virus from becoming more disastrous than it already is.
As of May 17, 2020, the total number of confirmed cases in Nigeria has risen to over 4,000 with 150 deaths. Even with these mounting numbers, the ongoing argument on a defective tracking system has not stopped, raising many controversial questions on the accuracy of the reported numbers and the likelihood of underreporting.
As tracing and isolation of infected people are some of the vital ways of curbing the spread, different methods are currently being explored to ensure an efficient tracking system in the country. However, this is still a very challenging task in a country of over 200 million people with an incapacitated healthcare system and a limited experience with the handling of novel diseases.
Reasonably, Tech companies are focusing their creative resources to solve this challenging task by creating apps and platforms which could aid the tracking process and help to report cases across the country.
Notable among these companies is TREP LABS, a youth-owned start-up that has enormously contributed to increasing tracking resources for coronavirus in Nigeria since the first case was reported in February 2020.
TREP LABS is a Nigerian-based health tech company dedicated to providing timely solutions to health-related issues. The start-up designed a customized mobile app to help track coronavirus cases in Nigeria, detailing the number of active, recovered, and death cases.
The mobile app, called “Itoju”- a Yoruba word for “Care”- enables individuals to report their health status, get graphical information on the potential spread of the virus in their immediate area, and more importantly stay abreast on recent development about the crisis across the world.
“We foresaw an overwhelming situation for the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in tracking cases across the country, so we developed a mobile app that could lift part of the tracking burden off them and complement the existing systems,” said Abdul-Waheed, an Anzisha Prize fellow and co-founder of TREP LABS.
The mobile app, which has now been modified into a web platform (http://reportcorona.ng/) to increase the rate of adoption and ensure easier accessibility, is customized to inform and interact with its users.
“The platform has attracted over 20,000 users in the space of barely one month with an average of 4,000 users daily.”
“The platform has attracted over 20,000 users in the space of barely one month with an average of 4,000 users daily”
“We modified the mobile app into a web platform because we considered people who may not be able to download and navigate the app,” said Abdulwaheed
Just like the mobile app, the web platform aims to supplement information provided by approved testing organizations such as NCDC and other public measures containing the spread of the virus using self-reported information provided by individuals. The reporting tab included on the platform helps to document information on symptoms, home address, and phone number of case reporters.
This third party or self-reported information is then used as a pointer in tracking suspected cases and the spread of the virus, all in the absence of sufficient, precise, and reliable testing across the country.
Also, the start-up received an unusual support from Google through an active map which shows the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria by states. According to Abdulwaheed, this service came at no single charge from Google.
Speaking on the modified app, Abdulwaheed revealed that within a few weeks of launching the app on Google playstore, it reported a total of 10 suspected cases across Nigeria. Stirringly, the Web platform has recorded even greater success as it has a larger audience.
Speaking on the key challenges faced, Abdulwaheed lamented over lack of support from both private and government agencies to increase awareness about the platform and said the start-up is open to meaningful collaborations that would help in curbing the virus.
Apart from developing this mobile app and web platform, Abdul-Waheed spoke on the readiness of TREP LABS to assist in vaccine administration once a cure is found and approved. This is based on the current push by the Federal Government of Nigeria to gain access to Remdesivir, a US FDA-approved coronavirus treatment drug that is administered through infusion.
“Efforts are underway to adapt our popular non-invasive device, RealDrip, to monitor the entire treatment process once the drug is approved.”
He further disclosed the start-up’s plans to support university students whose studies have been disrupted by the current pandemic (read more here).
“We are planning to work with a few young and talented university students who wish to build a career in tech and life science research. These young champs will be offered exceptional career support tailored to their individual needs,” said Abdulwaheed.
It is true that the fight against Coronavirus is going to be a long, sad, and maybe exhaustive one. But with the right technology and bright minds like Abdulwaheed, Africa has an opportunity to avoid a gruesome scenario until an ultimate cure is found and deployed worldwide.
Featured image: TREP LABS founder Abdul-Waheed Alayande