The present day disease surveillance and notification system in Sri Lanka, confined to a handful of diseases, known as Notifiable disease, and reporting large numbers of common cases, is what the British introduced in 1897 as part of the quarantine and prevention of diseases ordinance. This paper based surveillance and reporting system has its shortcomings that the health professionals themselves have voiced. The Real-Time Biosurveillance Program (RTBP) pilot, during the first week of April, interviewed health workers and health officials in Kurunegala District to study the notification and response policy and procedures. These interviews revealed that in some occasions by the time health officials receive the notification to inspect the patient, with the infectious disease, at the patient’s residence, the patient had already died; health workers literally pull their hair trying to decipher the illegible handwriting on the paper forms; they also mentioned that they have to travel long distance from their villages to the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) office to pickup the paper forms with the patient’s information. These inefficiencies and excessive costs can be drastically reduced with ICT; with a technique as simple as a communicating the information via SMS text messages that costs Rupees 0.
Prof. K. Vijayraghavan, Director of the National Center for Biological Sciences, in Bangalore is one of five recipients of this year’s Infosys Science Foundation prize, given to world-class researchers in social science in India. Along with our friends from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras’s – Rural Technology and Business Incubator, Prof. Vijayraghavan is one of the Investigators of the Real-Time Biosurveillance Program (RTBP) carried out in the state of Tamil Nadu in India and Sri Lanka.
IDRC New Delhi organized a visit by 10 colleagues from the MS Swaminathan Institute and related organizations to Sarvodaya for a knowledge exchange exercise. LIRNEasia and Sahana (Lanka Software Foundation) were among those invited to make presentations to the group. In addition, LIRNEasia also helped in organizing a demonstration of the alerting technologies from the Last-Mile Project during the field visit to Brahmanawatta in Balapitiya. LIRNEasia made presentations on the role of ICTs in disaster risk reduction and Early warning systems in disaster risk reduction. The discussion was lively and addressed issues of the nature of linkage with government early warning systems and the difficult problems of developing effective methods of communicating the message within the villages.