Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research
On-line version ISSN 2219-0635
MWABUKUSI, Mpoki; KARIMURIBO, Esron D.; RWEYEMAMU, Mark M. and BEDA, Eric. Mobile technologies for disease surveillance in humans and animals. Onderstepoort j. vet. res. [online]. 2014, vol.81, n.2, pp. 1-5. ISSN 2219-0635.
A paper-based disease reporting system has been associated with a number of challenges. These include difficulties to submit hard copies of the disease surveillance forms because of poor road infrastructure, weather conditions or challenging terrain, particularly in the developing countries. The system demands re-entry of the data at data processing and analysis points, thus making it prone to introduction of errors during this process. All these challenges contribute to delayed acquisition, processing and response to disease events occurring in remote hard to reach areas. Our study piloted the use of mobile phones in order to transmit near to real-time data from remote districts in Tanzania (Ngorongoro and Ngara), Burundi (Muyinga) and Zambia (Kazungula and Sesheke). Two technologies namely, digital and short messaging services were used to capture and transmit disease event data in the animal and human health sectors in the study areas based on a server-client model. Smart phones running the Android operating system (minimum required version: Android 1.6), and which supported open source application, Epicollect, as well as the Open Data Kit application, were used in the study. These phones allowed collection of geo-tagged data, with the opportunity of including static and moving images related to disease events. The project supported routine disease surveillance systems in the ministries responsible for animal and human health in Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia, as well as data collection for researchers at the Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania. During the project implementation period between 2011 and 2013, a total number of 1651 diseases event-related forms were submitted, which allowed reporters to include GPS coordinates and photographs related to the events captured. It was concluded that the new technology-based surveillance system is useful in providing near to real-time data, with potential for enhancing timely response in rural remote areas of Africa. We recommended adoption of the proven technologies to improve disease surveillance, particularly in the developing countries.