On June 23, 2020, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) had its virtual release of the Africa Communication and Information Platform for Economic and Health Action (ACIP). The ACIP digital health platform was created to be a two-way communication network between African governments and its citizens, to better inform both parties and improve healthcare and services across the continent.
ACIP in a Health Crisis
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic prompted the creation of the ACIP digital health platform. Statistics from June 27, 2020, show over 370,000 active cases of COVID-19 and 9,500 deaths in Africa. The rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus forced the African continent and the entire world into a major health crisis, affecting the social and economic wellbeing of governments and its citizens. As economies shut down, industries closed and job losses increased, more and more people became economically vulnerable and fell into deeper poverty.
Key Functions of ACIP
ACIP serves as a disease surveillance and data collection tool that will help mitigate the socio-economic effects of COVID-19 in Africa by informing resource allocation and response decisions.
A key part of the platform operates similarly to a search engine, identifying and predicting trends and providing information on where resources or responses are most needed. The ACIP digital health platform will also enable users to access locally relevant health advisories and medical advice, including a symptom checker.
The goal of the platform is to improve the way governments communicate with people to learn more about the current pandemic and how to help citizens. The data collected will be analyzed by the National COVID-19 Taskforce, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance and other African organizations, to gain better insight on the pandemic in order to form better health responses and strategies. By having a solid network to gather information on the virus, governments can better manage the virus and possibly reduce its spread. ACIP will gather public health data from user surveys conducted on the platform.
Collaboration is Key
The ECA collaborated with four major mobile network providers to make the free ACIP digital health platform easily accessible to everyone. However, there are still many people who cannot afford internet access, especially during the economic uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought. The ECU is working alongside stakeholders to resolve internet access and cost issues that may pose a roadblock in accessing the platform. Currently, the platform can already reach over 80% of Africa’s mobile users without additional costs placed on them.
The ACIP digital health platform shows African governments the importance of having a more connected society. It shows the knowledge that can come from pooling together data from across the continent, relaying information found and using the data to inform decisions to best combat a health pandemic. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has pledged its full support of ACIP and is working alongside the World Health Organization in Africa to raise awareness about the importance of using online communication networks as a way to respond to a health crisis.
– George Hashemi