Editor’s Notes: The thoughts in this piece emerged from the interview conducted with Abideen Olasupo, Co-Founder and Team Lead, KnowCovid-19 Nigeria. KnowCovid-19 is researching and analysing issues and needs on the virus and disseminate the outcomes to Nigerians and other nationals throughout the world using digital content distribution.
Tekedia: Covid-19 is not new to people and businesses since December 2019. Various efforts have been taken and still being initiated to contain the spread of the virus. What is your view on the efforts thus far?
Abideen Olasupo: While I commend all governments for fighting the demons that has been keeping us all at home. I must emphasise that some leaders started very late. If they had taken proactive steps earlier and face the virus like a war; maybe the casualties would have been lesser. We can do better by making testing kits readily available for a whole lot of people to get tested. Maintaining social distancing and locking down states alone won’t solve the problem.
As a social entrepreneur, how would you describe the social measures of the Nigerian government at federal and state level?
Sincerely, it may be too early to comment on this. While almost all states announcing lock down (full and partial) already announced palliatives, the implementation of such palliatives will really go a long way in achieving the goals. Will it get to the grassroots, where it is mostly needed? Will People with Disability get them? Will it not be politicized? Will an individual not take more than what he or she should take. While the pandemic requires serious attention, one would have expected the government to kickstart palliatives since last week before declaring total lockdown.
For the past few weeks, you and other groups of Nigerians have been researching and disseminating data driven information on the virus. What prompts this? What do you intend to gain?
The fight against COVID-19 isn’t just a fight against the pandemic, but also a war against what has been described as an ‘infodemic’, that is, the spread of fake news and disinformation about the virus. There are several anxiety-triggering, fear-inducing and scary information being circulated on and off social media platforms. Despite over 80,000 recoveries being recorded globally, there is more focus on the deaths, and the patients health practitioners are unable to save. There is little information about medical testing and successes recorded so far, some of which are China closing its last COVID-19 hospitals, and global recoveries. Knowcovid19.ng(soon to be launched officially later today) is solving the problem of fake information and misinformation around Covid19, inaccessibility of information by people at the grassroots, and ensuring timely conveyance of information, awareness and safety precaution, test centre and clinic location, reportage of case, matrix mapping and contact tracing using data, technology and infographics.
Would you say global leaders and other concerned stakeholders need big data to fight the spread of the virus amidst spread of misinformation about the virus?
Capital YES. We need to fight this global war with every available tool. Big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence must be deployed in the global effort against this virus. Researchers around the world are using machine learning to develop models that simulate and predict the spread of the virus in an attempt to identify patterns that might reveal the weaknesses and dangers of this pandemic. Vaccine development is now the hottest and most critical task worldwide. Bioinformatic tools are boosting the efficiency of what may well be the fastest vaccine development process in history. Without collaborative tools and big data, this would be an impossible task. Epidemiologists in South Korea, China, and Singapore are using real-time tracking tools to better understand the virus and slow the spread of disease. We are also mapping, tracking, reporting cases in Nigeria through Knowcovid19.
Redesigning and producing impactful contents require funds, how are you getting funds for daily operations?
Sincerely, I have been self-funding since last week. We were lucky to get committed volunteers who are passionate to join the initiative and commit their time, money, research skills and knowledge, Internet and alternative power supply to get things done. Our website is still pending owing to funding. We have not started work on our Mobile App. We need funding to give relief materials and as well support our volunteers research work. We are calling on individuals and corporate organisations to support us.