By Engineer Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi

To The Minister of Information and Communication Technology and Courier Services

The time has come for the Mobile Network Operators (MNO) and ICT professionals start supporting what the Minister of Health and Child Care is doing. Zimbabwe and the world are grappling to contain the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) epidemic.

The ICT professionals and ICT companies should be leading from the the front by using Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and skills to develop systems that can enhance disease surveillance, coordinate response mechanisms, and promote public awareness that is more significant now than any other time.

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This role of digital technologies is particularly crucial in Zimbabwe NOW than any other time, were we have weak health systems and high levels of illiteracy that usually slows the response to the epidemic by Zimbabweans in general.

Covid-19 is so deadly that, countries across the world have deployed the use of big data, mobile apps and other digital technologies with countries like China, Iran, Israel, Taiwan, and Italy are using geo-location technology relying on data from technology platforms and Mobile Network Operators (MNO) companies contain the spread of the Covid-19.

The Ministry of Information  and Communication Technology and Courier Services should be leading from the front by calling MNOs, ICT companies and ICT professionals to come together and come up with ICT solutions to help track and contain the spread of Covid-19. We do not have to recreate the wheel but just to copy and paste what countries like China, Italy and Israel have implemented. 

Worldwide, it is known that positioning Information and Communication technologies (ICT) has always played a crucial role during the time of crisis and disasters, just like these challenging times of Covid-19. Government agencies, health institutions, NGO and other stakeholders on the ground require precise positions to accurately assess the situation, pinpoint the risky areas and carry out relief and rehabilitation efforts accordingly, using ICT.

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In China they have an approach that has seen the country leverage its Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems and sophisticated digital surveillance infrastructure that they are now using for effective disease control.

Citizens in provinces such as Wuhan that was worst hit by the coronavirus are all required to install mobile apps that track travel, medical history and effectively control access to province’s subways, malls, and other public spaces.

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The Chinese government has deployed drones and robots to monitor and track the movement of its citizens in Wuhan Province. The second hardest-hit country after China is Italy were Vodafone has indicated it is, providing Italian officials with anonymised customer data to track and analyse population movements in the hard-hit Lombardy region, where people are in lockdown.

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The only known African country that is conducting technology-based disease surveillance is Kenya whose role is to monitor the movement of mobile phones users who are under self-isolation, who violate the restrictions imposed on their movements.

Above that, the Kenyan government has launched a contact tracking mobile app for public transport to provide critical contact data that will help trace back the movements of confirmed or suspected cases. I am also informed that in South Africa, MNOs have agreed to give the South African government location data of suspected cases to combat Covid-19.

Recently the Ugandan health authorities who have struggled to locate individuals who traveled on the same flights as persons who tested positive for the coronavirus, there is already a suggestion to use information from the Ugandan immigration department and local telecom companies to locate these individuals to contain the spread of the dreadful disease.

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As the ZICT chairman and an ICT professional, I am calling the Ministry of Information Communication Technology and Courier Services to take the leading role and invite MNO and ICT professionals to led in the development of the tracking Covid-19 systems in Zimbabwe, so that it become a national initiative. 

If you need me to explain or elaborate further please do not hesitate to contact me on +263772278161 or chair@zict.org.zw

Regards

Engineer Jacob kudzayi Mutisi

Engineer Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi Chairman of the ICT of Zimbabwe Institution Engineers and a Councillor of Institute of Directors (IOD)