Mar 29 , 2020

The Information Network Security Agency (INSA) has launched an integrated Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) monitoring platform. The estimated commercial value of the platform would have been as high as 1.5 million Br if not developed in house.

Launched on March 23, 2020, the web-based platform provides information such as directions to the nearest pharmacies, hospitals, and police stations in the country. Individuals who develop symptoms or were in contact with people with confirmed cases can also give information to the Ministry of Health via the platform.

The system also enables users to report illegal or unauthorized activities, such as large public gatherings. People who are confirmed to be sick with the virus can also follow up on their cases and status through the platform.

The Agency developed the platform to contribute to the fight against the Coronavirus, according to Shumete Gizaw (PhD), director-general at INSA, who dedicated six staff members to developing the platform.

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As a start, the website, which is accessed through the internet and uses GPS, has been launched in Amharic and English.

"We're going to add more languages in the coming days,” said Shumete.

The platform was also made to be used for epidemics that might erupt in the future, according to Biniyam Abebaw, software developer at INSA, which started the process of designing the platform after the first Coronavirus case was reported in Ethiopia on March 13, 2020. As of Friday, March 27, 2020, Ethiopia has 16 confirmed Coronavirus cases.

“During the process of web development, we faced several challenges including getting accurate information from different offices,” Biniyam said.

Thirteen individuals, six from INSA and seven from the Ministry of Health, were deployed to maintain the platform and take the necessary actions once reports are received in addition to their current responsibilities.

The platform can help the effort to contain the virus by providing information on the health status of the country, according to Lia Tadesse (MD), minister of Health.

“Technology can play a key role in controlling such epidemics and improving other healthcare activities," she said.

In the event of a rapid outbreak of the virus, the country has prepared two hospitals in the capital to isolate and treat people with confirmed cases. Bole Chefe is being used as a treatment centre for suspected individuals, and Yeka Kotebe is reserved for severe and critical cases.

Ethiopian Sky Light and Ghion hotels are also designated to serve as a quarantine location for travelers arriving in the country. All travelers who enter the country are required to stay in quarantine for 14 days at their own expense.

Yenebeb Abebe, general manager of Info World Link, says the system will play a significant role in the nation's fight against the Coronavirus and also for other healthcare services.

“But I have seen some gaps in the system," he said. "It primarily focuses on gathering data, and it needs to take the next step and make virtual treatment possible for those who isolate themselves."

The platform also has some limitations. For example, it cannot be reached by individuals with phones that do not access the internet, so it would be better to prepare a messaging system for those users, according to Yenebeb.

UPDATE: This story is edited to clarify that the platform was developed by volunteer employees of the Information Network Security Agency (INSA).

PUBLISHED ON Mar 29,2020 [ VOL 20 , NO 1040]

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