That’s the reaction I get when I speak of LIRNEasia’s big data research agenda – the part that focuses on communicable diseases, dengue in particular, and the use of mobile phones to reduce spread. By identifying areas of reported cases, “risk maps” can be developed for the implementation of preventive measures. The challenge is convincing health practitioners of the value of using mobile phone data and digitised data, among many others.
A similar model was used with success in Pakistan in 2012. The World Bank reports;
As usual dengue season came back in 2012. But this time, anti-dengue activities were being recorded via an app. Dr. Umar Saif, the young, energetic, then-chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), was tasked by the government with developing a solution to fight dengue.
PITB developed an app to record anti-dengue activities. Everyone in dengue-tracking teams was given smartphones. They took geo-tagged pictures that were displayed live. After the data was gathered, Saif led the data analysis process to find out where the government should focus its preventive activities.
The app made a difference. In 2012, there were 258 confirmed dengue cases in Lahore—80 times fewer cases than in 2011, when there were (even according to conservative estimates) at least 21,000 dengue cases.