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Coronavirus: Tech company in Ghana tracks symptoms and hotspots to curb infections

A software engineering company called Cognate systems in Ghana is using technology to track coronavirus symptoms and hotspots in the country all in effort to curb new infections. Putting to use a platform called Opine Health Assistant, the company is able to record and track the frequency of coronavirus symptoms like coughing and high fevers in different parts of the country.

March 26th saw the launch of the Opine Health Assistant which collects information from residents about their possible coronavirus symptoms and location through a USSD short code. Co-founder of cognate systems, Kwabena Nuamah said the USSD is a short code used mostly by mobile telecommunications networks and mobile service providers like banks for transactions. When you dial a number that starts with * and ends with # to top up your phone credit or make a bank transfer, you are using USSD. “To use the platform, they have to dial the short code *920*222# or *714*444# on their mobile phones and then follow the prompts to answer questions about symptoms and other risk factors,” Nuamah told CNN.

Cognate Systems, Accra (2020)
A tech company in Ghana is tracking coronavirus symptoms and hotspots to infections

“It is free to use and users can make use of it on any type of mobile device they have, even without credit,” he added. Dialing the USSD code allows residents to fill a form with questions about their symptoms, who they have been in contact with, age-range, and travel history. Another feature could be that the program asks if one is in need of supplies such as food, medicine and shelter in the wake of the pandemic.

Nuamah is also an artificial intelligence guru in the UK added that the questions are coned from the coronavirus risk factors established by the world health organisation (WHO) and are aimed at helping the platform comprehend the symptoms reported by the public.

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“When people fill the form, with the information they give us, we can analyse and predict if the person is likely to be infected by the virus. We can also use the location of those who have symptoms to predict new regions that are likely to get hit by the virus,” he said. The USSD collects data built into the assistant and the information provided by the public on coronavirus is visualized on maps and graphs to make it easier for anyone to understand, monitor and even, share.

There are always concerns around the whole idea behind the selling of peoples information and data online but the information gathered will be shared with the public health experts, data scientists, relief providers and disease surveillance teams who are better suited to understand the information provided to come to local solutions at managing the spread of the coronavirus with a localised area. Nuamah confesses that the 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.

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