Behind the scenes at South Africa’s impressive COVID-19 tech hub

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has repurposed an operations centre set up for the 2010 FIFA World Cup as a dedicated COVID-19 information hub.

Housed in a secure facility at the CSIR in Pretoria, it provides close-to-real-time analytics and dashboards on the coronavirus outbreak per province, district, local municipality, and ward.

One of the features of the information centre is the Cmore App, a mobile visualisation platform used by community health workers to record screening data and symptoms, and transmit information.

The CSIR said the platform enables a near-live display of the Household Screening and Testing Programme.

Digital platform

Salim Abdool Karim, chairperson of the COVID-19 advisory group, described how the system works during [email protected], hosted by UKZN.

“Community health workers have to enter information on a cellphone and, when they press submit, the cellphone sends a location – not just that the person has been screened – that location pins itself on the screen at the CSIR, so that we know where we have covered the country with our screens.”

Karim said that as of 15-16 April, a million people had been screened. This is the first week that the screening programme has been running.

“The target is to do a million a week, at least,” Karim stated.

Of the people tested, community health care workers have referred just over 10,000 for testing.

National COVID-19 Information Response Centre

The CSIR provided photos of its COVID-19 Information Centre, below, but declined to share details about the equipment and software being used, or access to the centre.

The CSIR explained that the team behind the COVID-19 Information Centre is very strict regarding disclosing any details about it, for security reasons.

It also can’t allow unrestricted photography of the screens in the centre, as they display sensitive information.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to the Information Centre

Now read: Interesting coronavirus stats for South Africa

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Behind the scenes at South Africa’s impressive COVID-19 tech hub