Zambia's weapon against malaria? Digital data

Myanmar also using digital data tools to determine progress of country's development programmes

Can the use of data help wipe out malaria?

That is what Zambia's Ministry of Health is aiming to do in its tie-up with Tableau Foundation - one of the top data software companies in the market - and international health organisation Path to eradicate malaria in the country by 2021.

Tableau is providing the critical data tools to track malaria so that government officials can make data-informed decisions about how and where to tackle outbreaks.

For instance, digital dashboards track when and where the cases are reported, by province and district. They also look at how the cases are being detected - whether by community health workers, in health facilities or by testing of family and neighbours of confirmed malaria cases.

The aim is to build the skills of district and facility health teams to fight the disease at the community level.

Tableau is also working with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Myanmar to use data to help track the level of agitation within the citizenry and the progress of development programmes in the country's burgeoning democracy.

When Myanmar's newly installed government conducted its 2014 census, many of the country's newly elected leaders and NGOs were fearful of the impending release of data. They feared a potential wave of violence if people did not properly comprehend what the data showed.

So the Centre for Diversity and National Harmony worked with Tableau to visualise the incidence of hate speech and incitements to violence on Facebook from across Myanmar, monitoring the location, nature and volume of relevant posts.

Tableau also worked with partners to gather, analyse, and present information required for the management of humanitarian and economic development programmes in the country. The interactive dashboard shows who is doing what programme at the village level there.

Janice Tai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2017, with the headline 'Zambia's weapon against malaria? Digital data'. Print Edition | Subscribe