Google.org has joined hands with a consortium of COVID-19 researchers to announce the launch of Global.health, an open-access epidemiological data platform that enables experts to track disease spread in real-time and to forecast future outbreaks, so informing effective government and public response.
With the support of Google.org, researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital, Northeastern University and Oxford University created Global.health with the express purpose of leveraging anonymised data from open-access authoritative public health sources to track disease progression.
Data has always been a vital tool in understanding and fighting disease, says Kernie Obimakinde, Google.org Research Fellow, but upholding data privacy has also been a critical aspect in the design of Global.health.
“When an outbreak occurs, timely access to organised, trustworthy and anonymised data is critical as it can help public health leaders formulate early policy, medical interventions, and resource allocation — all of which can slow the spread of disease and save lives,” he explains.
The Global.health team are confident that the platform will become a key addition to the world’s early warning systems toolbox, helping identify and respond to future epidemics and pandemics that may occur globally, regionally and nationally.
Earlier research work by the consortium helped detect the initial COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, and alert the World Health Organisation (WHO). Yet, due to the rapid spread of the virus around the world and the overwhelming pressure it created on their systems, the researchers tag-teamed with Google.org to urgently build Global.health.
The grant is part of a broader Google.org $100-million commitment to COVID-19 relief that was announced alongside 30 other projects from organisations around the world using AI and data analytics to support pandemic relief efforts.
Nigeria Receives First Set of MTN’s 1.4 Million Doses of Vaccines
Delivery is part of the allocation from the African Union (AU) Vaccination Programme in collaboration with MTN
The Nigerian government has taken delivery of the first set of 300,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines out of a total of 1.4 million doses designated for Nigeria by the AU. The vaccines are a combination of doses of AstraZeneca vaccines from the COVAX facility, and from the African Union’s (AU) COVID-19 vaccination programme, towards which the MTN Group contributed $25 million. The vaccines will be distributed amongst health workers in Nigeria by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency.
Commenting on the vaccines, Dr Faisal Shuaib, Director-General of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHDA) said, “On behalf of health care workers in Nigeria, we commend the efforts of the Nigerian government and the African Union in the fight against COVID-19, and we thank MTN for their collaboration. The arrival of these vaccines is a major step, as we try to stay ahead of the virus. We need all the collaboration we can get, and I implore more organisations to join this drive for the Nigerian people.”
Also Speaking, Director General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu expressed appreciation on behalf of the government. “The donation of COVID-19 vaccines is truly helpful, and we are grateful. We can only succeed against COVID-19 when we fight together. These vaccines will go a long way in protecting health workers, who are on the frontline, and need all the protection they can get at this critical moment, hence the prioritisation of their vaccinations.”
Expanding on the power of partnership and collaboration, Chief Executive Officer, MTN Nigeria, Karl Toriola said, “I thank the Nigerian government and the African Union for the opportunity they granted MTN to collaborate and contribute towards the delivery of these vaccines. The ongoing threat of COVID-19 requires a vast and accelerated effort by both the private and public sectors. Partnerships like this practically demonstrate what can achieved when we work together for Africa’s (and indeed Nigeria’s) progress. We are truly privileged to have been able to play our part in contributing towards government’s efforts to protect and save lives.”
At the start of the pandemic , MTN Nigeria collaborated with government to curb the spread of the virus, in large part via the introduction of MTN’s Y’ello Hope platform. Y’ello Hope encompasses a broad range of interventions and programmes valued at approximately N25 billion, that are designed to offer relief where it is needed most. These are aimed at supporting Nigeria’s people, customers, communities, and the various levels of government.
Through Y’ello Hope the company provided free-to-access services (including SMS and data) to the most vulnerable, facilitated zero-rated access to healthcare websites, deployed the ‘Wear-it-for-me’ campaign to help create awareness around the importance of wearing masks, and made a N1 billion donation to the private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 CACOVID).
In addition, the MTN Foundation delivered more than 70,000 pieces of essential Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to Nigeria, through MTN’s collaboration with its key partners, is another step taken as part of the Y’ello Hope platform, and MTN will continue to seek out ways to make a meaningful difference in Nigeria.
COVID and the Growth of Technology in Nigeria – FBNQuest
By Gregory Kronsten, Head, Macroeconomic and Fixed Income Research, FBNQuest
It is often said that the COVID-19 virus has brought irreversible change in working practices and lifestyle, and that the main beneficiaries are the likes of Alphabet, Apple and Facebook as well as mobile network operators (MNOs).
This has been corroborated in Nigeria’s national accounts, where we see that the only sector to have delivered robust growth through COVID-19 has been information and communications. It grew by 11.1 per cent y/y in 2019, which it managed to push up to 12.9 per cent last year. (Finance and insurance achieved 9.4 per cent in 2020 on the back of strong loan book expansion in the first half under regulatory pressure.)
We can see the change in data from the Kenyan Central Bank. When we compare April-December 2020 (life with COVID) with July 2019-March 2020 (pre-COVID), we find a 10 per cent decline in the value of card transactions. For obvious reasons, the fall in point of sales transactions was still lower.
Digital has been the predictable winner: the number of registered digital bank accounts rose by 11 per cent relative to the pre-COVID period and the cash transferred through mobile bank agents at more than twice the pace. We note that the central bank reacted smartly to COVID in March (2020) by cutting the fees, and increasing the upper limit on transactions.
The operating environment for MNOs has been more challenging in Nigeria. They were told to halt the sale of SIM cards in December. All new cards must now be linked to national identification numbers (NINs) by 06 April. We had thought that perhaps one reason for the measures was to collect revenue from a soft target but have been persuaded otherwise. The link, which already exists in Kenya, has security implications since the NIN is required for the issue of a passport, opening of bank account and voter registration.
From the operators’ perspective, the best we can say is that the process is finite, that it is proceeding well according to the regulator and that it affects all players in the industry.
More generally and again helped by the COVID, Nigeria has seen good volume growth and investment activity across the technology segment, notably in fintech. Two Nigerian payment platforms (one since acquired by US interests) diversified into e-commerce last year, and we read in the local media that another two are in the process of following their example.
The tech sector has been boosted across the world by COVID: we work from home, talk to our colleagues and clients virtually, follow webinars, attend e-school and support e-commerce for our food, clothing and entertainment. Once we are free (not of COVID-19 but the restrictions put in place to control it), we will revert to some of our old habits such as going to the cinema and eating at a restaurant.
Nonetheless, there has been an underlying shift in behavioural preferences. This has been more marked with the young, who dominate in Nigeria and other emerging economies. The challenge for the tech sector is to broaden access to its products.
A minority in Nigeria does not have access to a mobile, often for reasons of connectivity, and a more substantial minority is unbanked. Another result of COVID-19 has been a rise in poverty levels, estimated by the World Bank at more than 15 million Nigerians, which adds to the formidable task of the tech companies.
COVID-19: 9mobile Pledges Support for Health Workers
Nigeria’s caring telecommunications company, 9mobile, has paid glowing tribute to Dr. Ayodeji Falana and other health workers who have been outstanding in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in the last one year. Dr. Falana was adjudged most outstanding health worker for his leadership and dedicated service.
The commendation came as 9mobile visited health workers on Saturday February 27 at the Lagos State Government isolation centre of Mainland Hospital, Yaba otherwise known as Infectious Disease Hospital.
The 9mobile initiative is designed to appreciate the efforts of health workers who have been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 across the country. A minute silence was observed in honor of health workers and Nigerians who lost their lives to Covid-19.
Commending health workers nationwide, 9mobile’s Public Relations Lead, Chineze Amanfo, who represented the Executive Director, Regulatory and Corporate Affairs, Abdulrahman Ado, recalled that it was exactly one year that the index case was recorded in Nigeria. She stated that “we decided to visit the isolation centre in Yaba to appreciate the health workers who have been at the forefront in this fight against Covid-19. 9mobile appreciates your commitment and dedication because you are the real heroes in the fight against Coronavirus. 9mobile applauds your dedicated service and reiterates that we are solidly you.”
Amanfo, who presented a plaque of recognition to the recipient and other gift items to the health workers on behalf of 9mobile, also saluted the bravery of the health workers. She said that despite the disruption and loss caused by the coronavirus pandemic, health workers have continued to show exemplary commitment.
In his response, the Medical Director of Mainland Hospital, Yaba, Dr. Abimbola Bowale said that “I received the Covid-19 index patient on February 27, 2020, and it has been a very long journey since then. Unfortunately, we have reported some deaths and for the health workers, it has been very demanding for us. So, this is a very significant day. This facility is the largest facility where Covid-19 patients are treated. We are very proud of the enormous work and commitment of our staff in the fight against Covid-19. Our health workers have shown resilience. We appreciate 9mobile for their show of support. I am excited for what they have done today”.
The recipient of the award, Dr. Ayodeji Falana appreciated 9mobile for shinning its spotlight on the selfless sacrifices of health workers in Nigeria. He said that, “I have been involved in the fight against infectious diseases for a very long time. Hence, it feels good to be appreciated and it shows that when you work hard, you will eventually be recognized and appreciated. Covid-19 provided us with the opportunity to serve Nigeria with our capacities and capabilities. I heartily appreciate 9mobile for encouraging us to do more for the Nigerian healthcare system”.
According to his official citation, Dr. Ayodeji Falana, an alumnus of Obafemi Awolowo University, has played a pivotal role in transforming the clinical landscape of the Mainland Hospital in the past one year with his contribution to the fight against Covid-19. As a clinician in the facility for over a decade, he was actively involved in the fight against Ebola in 2014, treating and managing infected patients. This prepared him for the mantle of leadership in the fight against Covid-19 when he was posted by the Lagos State Covid-19 Case Management Pillar Lead to serve as the Medical Lead for Eti-Osa Isolation Centre in April 2020. He has shown commitment, drive, innovation, selflessness and has made enduring impact.
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