Victor Muthembwa, Boniface Bundi and Crispus Nyamberi are among the many Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology students who have answered the call to innovate and creatively contribute to the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Since March this year, the three have been hard at work coming up with a Contact Tracing App meant to help identify who, where and when someone gets into contact with a COVID-19 positive person. The trio have since upgraded the App to include Triaging and Case Management functions that are primed to solve the cumbersome nature of manual records in most hospitals across the country.
‘I witnessed what was happening in China and other developed countries with superior healthcare systems as this disease ravaged on, and I asked myself what this disease would do to us owing to our developing status. This is what motivated me to be part of this technological effort to combat COVID-19,” says Boniface, a final year Electronic and Computer Engineering student at JKUAT.
For many years, contact tracing has formed the basis of public health response to curbing infectious diseases, and the novel Coronavirus is no different. The contact tracing app by the three students adds a crucial arsenal in this fight in that it’s digital and specifically focuses on tracing contacts who use public transport, particularly matatus. In order to demonstrate proof of concept, the students entered a partnership with Super Metro buses, which ply the Nairobi-Thika route, as well as Kikuyu, Uthiru routes in Nairobi. The demonstration has so far been a massive success, and their hope is to possibly roll this out countrywide.
Victor, who is also final year student pursuing Clinical Medicine, says they realized it wasn’t going to be enough for the App to just aid in contact tracing alone. Their expansion of the App which has made it quite robust has now seen the inclusion of crucial, authentic and verified information on COVID-19, from signs and symptom, warning signs, and advisory on when to contact health professionals in case one suspects they have been exposed.
The move aims at destigmatizing the disease, and helping in educating the masses on the respiratory disease. However, one of the most crucial addition they have made to the app is the function that is set to relieve the burden of manual records and cumbersome paperwork from our healthcare system. This is the triaging and case management application.
“With the triaging and case management application, the Ministry of Health will be able to maintain a central database of all COVID-19 cases, and seamlessly coordinate records with other hospitals across the country,” says Victor.
Besides this, the App is set to enable physicians share information on their handling of COVID-19 patients hence helping in coming up with standardized approach, management and even clinical trials.
“With the case management and triaging function, it will also be possible to make predictions of hotspots and showcase the trends of the disease in real-time. It also means when someone goes to the hospital, their details won’t have to be taken manually, a move that will reduce cost. Overall, this will be crucial in guiding policy making and interventions, as well as epidemiological mapping,” explains Crispus.
JKUAT Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi, lauded the students for their innovative knack and encouraged other researchers and innovators to generate homegrown solutions to the pandemic.
“JKUAT is committed to contributing to knowledge creation, research and innovations for the betterment of humanity as epitomized in the JKUAT’s vision,” said Prof. Ngumi.
“There has been a question of how the youth are participating in the fight against Coronavirus in the country. This is our answer to that question. As a Country, it’s time we fully exploited the opportunities and possibilities brought by technology to not only enable prudent policy decisions, but also to save lives,” concludes Bundi.