Wednesday, 03rd July 2013, Colombo: The Colombo Municipal Council’s Public Health Department, along with Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel, the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU) and the University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC) launched a cutting-edge social media system titled ‘Mo-Buzz’ – aimed at dengue prevention in and around Colombo.
Developed by NTU’s researchers at the Centre of Social Media Innovations for Communities (COSMIC), Mo-Buzz is a combination of a public health surveillance web application, integrated with a social media-based mobile app. In the current version, public health inspectors (PHIs) in Colombo will use digitized surveillance forms available on portable tablet computers to collect dengue data. With this capability, they can capture pictures of mosquito breeding sites and deliver health education to the general public. The system automatically geo tags the surveillance forms and breeding site pictures and sends the information to the CMC with the click of a button.
“Our research in Colombo shows that this system can significantly accelerate the surveillance and reporting process”, said NTU’s Associate Professor May O. Lwin, the Principal Investigator for the study. “The geo-tagging system will further strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of CMC’s actions against Dengue,” she said.
The University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC) assisted with the development and maintenance of this system, and will contribute local technological intelligence to future versions of the system.
“This technology will be deployed amongst our entire cadre of PHIs throughout the year, starting with the PHIs in Colombo. Dengue continues to be a grave health issue in Sri Lanka with nearly 40,000 persons affected last year. This kind of social media system will assist greatly towards reducing the time lapse otherwise encountered between collecting and reporting data, and also towards preventive action taken,” said Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam, Chief Medical Officer, CMC.
“Providing the necessary technological and connectivity support for Mo-Buzz is definitely a priority, as is the effort taken towards dengue prevent and surveillance. Mobitel has long been a staunch supporter of the fight against dengue, as expressed in our motto, ‘We Care. Always.’ Mobitel will continue to support such projects while contributing our expertise in the industry,” stated Mr. Nalin Perera, Senior General Manager – Marketing, Mobitel.
In the future version, Mo-Buzz can potentially predict dengue outbreaks weeks in advance, and will enable citizens to help health authorities monitor the spread of dengue in real time using smartphones. Mo-Buzz is the first of its kind in the world to use crowd-sourcing for dengue surveillance.
The system will thus empower people to report dengue symptoms, mosquito bites and breeding sites using a simple text form or pictures or videos sent through their smartphones. All such reports will be automatically geo-tagged according to the user’s location and displayed on live Google maps. This will help health authorities stay apprised of the spread of dengue in real time and accordingly allocate health resources to areas that need the quickest attention.
“This new capability represents a significant shift in how the spread of dengue and other infectious diseases can and will be monitored in the future” said Professor Lwin, an expert in health communication. “What we’re hoping to do with Mo-Buzz’s future version is to create active channels of communication between citizens and health authorities during the peak dengue season. The main advantage is that it helps everyone take preventive actions well ahead of time which is what is most important for preventing dengue and saving lives.”
In addition, the system will automatically process historic weather and dengue incidence data using a computer simulation to generate predictive hotspot maps that forewarn the public and health authorities where and when dengue might occur. As soon as an area on the map is identified as an hotspot either through the algorithm or the citizen reports, an alert and health education messages can be sent to residents in that area. Also, the application will offer tailored health education specific to the kind of report sent by the citizen. This functionality is built to encourage residents to practice healthy behaviors that will keep them safe from dengue. Users can also share the health education material available on the application through social networking tools including Twitter, Facebook and SMS.