Smith Dharmasaroja is a hero of mine. Disagreeing with a hero does not come easy. But he is wrong to give equal or greater weight to national tsunami detection and monitoring systems than to communication of last-mile warning. It may be that the fault lies in the reporter in ordering the comments, but it does appear that Mr Smith believes that a national tsunami detection and monitoring system is most important to Thailand. It is not.
Fidelity of digitized data in the Real-Time Biosurveillance Program (RTBP) was not promising; especially with the personnel in Sri Lanka with no medical knowledge but technically capable were producing up to 45% noisy data (second stacked graph). On the contrary the medically trained but less fluent in mobile phone usage Indian nurses were less prone to producing noisy data. The Indian health workers had an incentive because the erroneous data would produce false alarms, and they would need to respond to these false alarms or it would portray a bad image of the health situation in their area; while the Sri Lanka data digitizing personnel had no incentive besides picking up a paycheck for the data entry work they did. The data was submitted through the mHealthSurvey mobile software that works on less expensive Java-enabled hand-helds. The RTBP envisions that hospital data is submitted each day; thus, the real-time expectations.
The “Evaluating a Real-Time Biosurveillance Program” (RTBP) research team meet in Chennai, July 6 – 7, 2010 to discuss the interim findings of the evaluation work (click to read workshop report) carried out in Tamil Nadu India. In addition to the workshop a news conference was organized to disseminate the pilot project findings. The links below are some of the news prints (click on the thumbnails to view news clippings) :: – Mobiles on Health Calls, The Hindu Business Line, September 13, 2010 – Pilot study in using mobile technology for disease reporting shows promise, Thehindu.com, July 07, 2010 – Pilot study on epidemiological early disease warning system, Chennaionline.com, July 07, 2010 – New tech to keep tab on diseases, timesofindia.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s show – The National “Lifelines” – did a news program on the Real-Time Biosurveillance Program carried out in India and Sri Lanka; watch the clip here.
Impressive science is being produced as a result of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The focus now must be on creating systems within national governments that will allow the best use of science. Modeling data on projected tsunami arrival times (if any) were available to all on September 12, 2007. There is no evidence that the government’s hasty evacuation order took into account any of this information. A new mathematical formula that could be used to give advance warning of where a tsunami is likely to hit and how destructive it will be has been worked out by scientists at Newcastle University.