Contact Tracing, Symptoms Management; Major Takeaways from COVID-19 Innovation Challenge Demo Day


The rallying of innovators to tackle the rampaging coronavirus by Ventures Platform finally reached its demo day yesterday. It was held virtually due to the lockdown in effect to curb the spreading virus.

Wellvis Health, Infodemics and 5 other startups that were selected for the innovation challenge had the opportunity to showcase their solutions to potential partners, mentors, government agencies and other stakeholders in the industry.

The COVID-19 Innovation challenge was organised by Ventures Platform in partnership with Lagos State Government, Sterling Bank, MTN, Bluechip among others.

Speaking during the demo, Kola Aina, the founder of Ventures Platform, expressed great appreciation to the partners. He added that the demo was a great opportunity for the startup to showcase to collaborators who can help start the integration of their solutions in earnest.

Other notables present at the demo were, DG of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Inuwa Kashifu Abdullahi; Commissioner for Science and Technology Lagos state, Hakeem Fahm; MD and CEO of Sterling Bank Plc, Abubakar Suleiman; Board Member of MTN, Dr Omobola Johnson; and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)Technical team.

While addressing the startups, the NITDA boss advised that for their solutions to make any difference they must disrupt the existing industry. He added that since the virus had already disrupted industries, their startup only needs to develop the needed solutions.

He further iterated that there are just about 3 unicorns on the continent but the technologically savvy younger generation could be leveraged to create more unicorns. He also added that his agency is dedicated to creating a level playing field for startups.

Here are some of the major takeaways from the different solutions showcased by the startups at the demo.

Grassroot health education

Misinformation is one of the problems health organisations are contending with in the fight against the spreading COVID-19. Facebook, Twitter and several other social media have made great efforts to curb it but its effects are still evident especially among locals.

Infodemics, a risk communications startup is using its platform which utilizes social circles and hierarchies to disseminate appropriate health information.

Presenting for Infodemics, Dr Achese Nestor Inimgba highlighted that the platform can educate the local community through its social circles. He added that the platform interprets health information such as WHO info on COVID-19 into a simplistic illustration that people can understand and disseminates same through different social circles.

Through this method, the startup believes it can help debunk myths about the virus as well as educate locals even if they are without a smartphone.

According to Nestor, Infodemics verifies messages by leveraging information from its field agents as well as government agencies like NCDC and volunteers in the fields – Corpers, religious leaders etc.

Highlighting a possible collaboration, the MD of Sterling said the startup could leverage on SANEF (Shared Agent Network Expansion Facilities) of over 500,000 agents armed with smartphones all over Nigeria as volunteers to disseminate information through its social circle.

Apart from its communication platform, Infodemics also a developed
COVID-19 tracker app which enables people to report isolation and request for a COVID-19 test. The app asks a series of deliberate questions that will gather relevant symptoms or helpful in arranging a test for the user.

Smart interactive bot to handle and prioritize health inquiries and reports

With the large population of Nigeria, the number of hotlines provided by the NCDC can easily be flooded with calls, many of which are most probably just panic calls.

MyServiceAgent, is an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system designed by iQube Labs that can handle multiple calls of inquires and prioritizes reports in order of urgency.

The team at iQube Labs

Presenting for MyServiceAgent, Mayowa Ayodeji, lead at iQube Labs, explained that the system was capable of handling multiple outbound calls, speech recognition, and responding to calls in different languages.

He added that this will help the NCDC to sort through a large number of calls on their hotlines and sort reports or cases in order of priority. When TechNext inquired about how the system determines which calls are not relevant and those which are urgent, Mayowa replied that the system has been programmed to ask specific questions about travel history, symptoms, contact details etc.

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He added that the system has been trained to pick up the responses that correspond with a critical case. If urgent, the system puts the call details at the top of the log and alerts the human respondent.

Frontline health equipment and resource inventory

With the increasing number of infections in the country, the NCDC needs all the help it can get in managing and processing the stream of infected cases coming up daily. There are currently 184 confirmed cases of Infection in the country.

Driage is a solution by Wellahealth that provides guidance to users based on NCDC guidelines. The platform can take in inquires from users either through USSD, WhatsApp bot, Facebook message or web and provide responses to them based on NCDC guidelines.

The solution aims to reduce dependence on physical practitioners. And consequently, lighten the burden of medical officers so that they can focus on more critical cases through case management of patients.

Apart from it being able to record users responses for followup by relevant health agencies, the system can also be used by health practitioners on the frontlines.

The platform has Caselinks, a solution that shows an inventory of what is available in various hospitals across the country.

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Presenting for Driage, Ikpeme Neto, founder of Wellahealth explained that Caselinks showed a frontline impression of what is available in hospitals. He added that frontline responders can use the information to direct infected people to where there are resources.

According to Neto, the inventory can be updated frequently with the uses of SMS through an approved contact person in each hospital.

Personal test assessment

With the jumping number of infections in the country, the number of people who want to know if they are infected is also increasing. However, there are not enough test kits to go around.

Major Takeaways from COVID-19 Innovation Challenge Demo Day
The GloEpid team

GloPeid is a platform that helps people carry out self-assessments to see if they are possibly infected. The platform asks a series of questions that allow users to self-assess themselves.

Presenting for GloPeid, Joel Ogunsola, founder of Prunedge said that the system can also help with contact assessing.

Similarly, Wellvis Health also presented a COVID-19 triage tool that allows users to determine their risk of getting infected with the COVID-19.

Presenting for Wellvis, Wale Adeosun, CEO of Wellvis Health revealed that the app also instructs users on what to do and if they really need to visit a hospital. He added that the startup was making plans to develop a solution that will help those without smartphones take the test.

He further added they were also seeking collaborations that can help make the web app data free for users.

Symptoms logger

As a follow-up to the initial risk test, Wale revealed that they have developed Symptoms logger that logs follow up inquiries on users with very high risk of Infection.

According to him, Wellvis follows-up the user with periodic inquiries and log the response in the symptoms logger to keep track and direct the case to relevant authorities if symptoms get worse.

Case reporting management

With the cases of infection starting to spread out across states, there is a need for the NCDC to manage the cases being reported. COVID-19 Nigeria is an incident reporting platform that can help in managing the reported cases of infection.

Presenting for COVID-19 Nigeria, Tochukwu Okorie, Founder of Innover Technologies explained that the software can also be used for rumour management as well as managing reported cases of infection.

He added that the software can show heat maps of confirmed infection, maps of confirmed cases and a contact network map to show places of possible infection.

Contact Tracing

Tracing and isolation of infected people are one of the major measures the government is using to curb the spread of the virus. cMapIt analytics uses a Geographic Information System (GIS) and data visualisation software that helps to visualise geospatial data to show places an infected person visited.

Presenting for cMapIt analytics, Niyi Abiri, Co-Founder GIS, an Earth Data Analytics Software Startup explained that the software can use the location data available on an infected person’s phone to trace all the locations they have been to.

He added that the software renders the location data into an interactive map that can be used by the agency to trace for areas and people with possible infection.

Similarly, Joel also revealed that GloPeid is also trying to develop a contact-tracing software similar to the TraceTogether used in Singapore. The software uses Bluetooth signals between cellphones to trace potential carriers of the virus who have been in contact with infected people.

So there you have it, the various solution proffered by Nigerian innovator during the demo day. The selected startups will receive mentoring, support and a fund of N1.1 million ($3,000).

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