Africa’s Ebola virus crisis: African technologists urge more robust technology-based response strategy

Open letter to the African Union, African heads of state and African governments

We, the undersigned, representing the Africa Emergency Technology Response Forum (AETRF), an informal network of African technology professionals engaged in the Ebola crisis response on the continent and in the diaspora, herein convey our concern about the current Ebola virus disease outbreak and call for more concerted efforts to bring robust technological responses to the crisis.

Ebola crisisAccording to the World Health Organization, “The 2014 Ebola virus disease outbreak continues to evolve in alarming ways, with the severely affected countries … struggling to control the escalating outbreak.”

Recognizing that information technology is exploding throughout the continent and even the most remote areas have tremendous mobile technology coverage, the AETRF urges greater attention to technology as a means of controlling the outbreak. The AETRF believes that the expertise of technology professionals, practitioners and volunteers can be more effectively harnessed to curtail the monster virus and save lives.

The Ebola virus disease outbreak cannot be effectively controlled without the critical inclusion, deployment, application and use of information technology infrastructure, tools and enabling resources.

According to the World Health Organization, “The 2014 Ebola virus disease outbreak continues to evolve in alarming ways, with the severely affected countries … struggling to control the escalating outbreak.”

While we commend the constructive interventions already in place, we recognize that more needs to be done. The AETRF calls on all African heads of state and governments to endorse and approve the following recommendations aimed at combating the Ebola outbreak while also helping to build the infrastructure to avoid future catastrophes and save lives:

  1. Increase the political commitment to stop the Ebola virus disease outbreak by immediately designating a technology leader on the national task force to coordinate the government’s technology initiatives in response to the Ebola outbreak. This leader should have the government’s full mandate to leverage government resources, private sector or NGO efforts in fulfilling any relevant Ebola response communications, data gathering, contact mapping and analysis of efforts;
  2. Encourage all African countries to establish a “National Data Center” to host the “National Call Center for Ebola.” This platform will provide the flexibility for countries to access on-demand cloud-based technology solutions in response to public safety emergencies and post-crisis analysis;
  3. Encourage all African countries to establish a “National Health Emergencies News and Information Radio Station” that compiles, vets and disseminates accurate health information including preventative measures related to hygiene, health education and emergency information. In addition to the radio station, we recommend the use of all available communications platforms, including and not limited to television, SMS messaging and social media. These healthcare communications should be available in local languages and should address all diseases that impact the lives of Africans including Ebola, Cholera and Malaria.

With these recommendations, we wish to reaffirm our commitment to global efforts to halt the spread of the Ebola virus on the African continent.

With the highest regards,

The Africa Emergency Technology Response Forum

  • Chris Uwaje, Chief Software Architect, Mobile Software Solutions Ltd., Nigeria
  • Emira Woods, Director of Social Impact, ThoughtWorks, Global
  • Kwesi Eyison, Co-Founder/Business Development Manager, iSpace Foundation, Ghana
  • Pearlyn Budu, Director of Partnerships, West Africa, VOTO Mobile, Ghana
  • Betty Enyonam Kumahor – Managing Director, Africa, ThoughtWorks Africa, Ghana
  • Prieska Villily Buthelezi, ThoughtWorks, South Africa
  • Wahne Tubman, Director, Enwah Interactive, South Africa
  • Evelyn A. Lewis, CEO, SBTS Group, Sierra Leone
  • Daubeny A. Weeks, Director, Technology Partners, Inc., Liberia
  • Kimmie L. Weeeks, Youth Action International, Liberia and Sierra Leone
  • Lamine P. Gray, ICT/IM Manager, Community Infrastructure and Development Project, Ministry of Public Works, Government of the Republic of Liberia
  • Abdul Tejan-Cole, Executive Director, Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA), Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone.
  • Clement K. Tay, Webmaster, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Government of the Republic of Liberia
  • Amadou Daffe, CEO and Co-Founder, CODERS4AFRICA Inc., Senegal, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tunisia and United States
  • Chika C. Umeadi, Engagement Director, tiphub, Nigeria, Ghana and United States
  • Samuel Suraphel, Founder, Mansa Colabs LLC, Africa/North America
  • Wilmot J Gibson, Principal Engagement Manager, Microsoft Services Americas, New England Division, United States
  • Kevin Schuster, Director of Partnerships, North America, VOTO Mobile, United States
  • Musumani Woods, CEO, Ayana Consultant Services, United States
  • Cecil (CJ) John, Chief Executive Architect, virtualdeveloper.com Corp., United States
  • Siafa Sherman, Managing Director, Synogy Consulting, United States
  • Marvin Cassell, Director, International Business Development and Marketing, LM3 Global, United States
  • Sando T. Johnson, Jr., Software Architect, SMAG Media, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Malawi, United Kingdom and United States

This letter has also been posted as an online petition; readers are urged to sign it, at Change.org. To contact AETRF, email ebolatechresponse@gmail.com and visit http://www.techresponsestocrisis.com/. Consultant Kambale Musavuli reports that a significant response to this letter, which was issued Sept. 15, came only four days later. On Sept. 19, Politico reported: “Steve VanRoekel, the chief information officer at the White House, is leaving his post to help coordinate the administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak ravaging West Africa.”