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Campus News: KIU, Five International Universities Partner with VODAN Africa to Host First-ever Webinar series in Africa

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By Rogers Wanambwa

KIU, Main Campus – The Virus Outbreak Data Network (VODAN)-Africa has partnered with Kampala International University and five other international universities to host the first of a three-part Webinar series on Zoom. The first-ever webinar held on Thursday 7th, May focused on the current situation from a national perspective, challenges and progress in COVID-19 related data stewardship. 

Speakers included Dr Sakinat Folorunso (Olabisi Onabanjo University-Nigeria), Mariam Basajja (KIU-Uganda), Getu Tadele (University of Makele-Ethiopia), Morgane Wirtz (University de Sousse - Tunisia), and Dr Reginald  Maudlin Nalugala (Tangaza University-Kenya).

The Webinar was also attended by KIU Vice-Chancellor, Dr Mouhamad Mpezamihigo and Her Excellency, Julia Duncan Cassell, the former Honourable Minister of Gender, Children & Social Protection, in the Republic of Liberia. 

The webinars are being hosted by VODAN-Africa in partnership with Kampala International University (KIU), Leiden University, Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science, GO FAIR US/San Diego Supercomputer Center and RavelWorks Africa. 

VODAN-Africa is a GO-Fair implementation network set up to help fight the COVID-19 Coronavirus.

The implementation network aims at creating Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR) data, especially in health to improve the health systems in Africa. The real-time access to COVID-19 pandemic cases online, which indicates the total number of cases, recoveries and deaths among other things in real-time, is one example of the importance of the network. 

During the webinar, hosted by Christine Kirkpatrick of the San Diego Supercomputer Centre (SDSC), many issues were highlighted.  

Mariam Basajja, the Technical Coordinator and Country Coordinator, Uganda, cited challenges like limited internet accessibility and unreliable electricity in most of the African nations where the program is rolled out. She explained that these issues hinder real-time information access which is part of their primary objectives. 

She, however, highlighted progress in the work being done, including setting up a real-time COVID-19 tracking system that is now being used by URA. 

Getu Tadele from the University of Makele in Ethiopia, in his submission, said that "there is a huge problem of lack of re-usability of data and interoperability in health information and also a lot of duplication of effort that this system will cut out." 

In response to a query from the writer of this article about how data would be collected where people do not regularly go for hospital checkups, Prof. Francisca Oladipo, the Executive Director of VODAN-Africa (KIU) said that "We are currently going to be working with hospitals and later on roll out MetaData collection stewards who will be gathering it from communities and publishing to allow for algorithms to search and create patterns."  

Metadata is information about data and is also known as "data on data". Metadata definition and types

KIU Vice-Chancellor Dr Mpezamihigo commended the progress of all the personnel involved in the VODAN-Africa project and for showing the importance of such systems in the world, especially in health.

For more information about the Webinars and other projects, visit GO FAIR US Events 

Photo Credit: VODAN-Africa

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