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Tracking Africa’s Response to the Spread of Coronavirus

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa joined forces with a group of telecoms operating in Africa to reach over 600 million mobile subscribers with coronavirus health advice. The Africa Communications Intelligence Platform will be deployed on mobile phones via text and voice messaging in at least 23 African countries in its first phase, UNECA said. It will offer coronavirus-related health tips, feature a symptom checker and allow users to take short health and economic surveys related to the pandemic, Tunde Fafunwa of the UN economic agency in Africa told CNN. Fafunwa said the platform would analyze anonymous user-generated responses and information from social media platforms using artificial intelligence to identify trends around the outbreak. UNECA said insights gained from the curated data will be used to support national Covid-19 task forces and relevant ministries to help countries evaluate their response to the pandemic. MTN CEO Rob Shuter said the service leverages existing simple narrowband technology that is beneficial for subscribers that don’t have smart phones. Shuter said aside from its benefit to governments’ initiatives, operators can use the service to share timely information on the pandemic.