7 October 2014: As the spread of Ebola virus continues to accelerate, Code Innovation has continued to update the free "About Ebola" app to educate smart phone users and their networks about the virus. This app is a complement to traditional and wider-reaching public health information efforts to educate the general public and health care responders (including home caregivers) about the virus and how to prevent its transmission. Mobile phone use exploded in Africa over the last decade, driven by the durability and low cost of simple phones. As smart phones drop in price and become available secondhand a steadily growing segment of the population is shifting over to this more versatile digital platform. The strengthening and expansion of mobile and data signals encourage this trend.
Code Innovation sees the mobile space as being the dominant technological platform for Africa in the coming decade, and we focused our innovations efforts in the mobile space around Ebola because nothing existed in late March and April of 2014, and we saw an opportunity to make a difference.
In our years of field experience in West Africa, we have noted that smart phone users enjoy increased social capital, influence and prestige in their families and communities. Because many areas affected by the virus also exhibit distrust of traditional authority figures, including government and national health workers, and also distrust of outside actors including foreign aid workers, we believe that smart phone owners have an important part to play as educators about Ebola virus in their families, social networks and wider communities.
The mobile app is just one component of a wider and far-reaching health systems response from all levels, including national government, international organizations, non-profits and NGOs. We created the app because we saw mobile technology as missing from the initial response of more traditional communications efforts such as radio outreach, print media and posters, as well as television spots.
The app is now published on Android and Apple platforms in five African languages: Jola, Sierra Leonian Krio, Liberian English, Swahili and Wolof. In addition, the app is in English and French. Because the Google Play store does not acknowledge African languages, with the exception of Swahili, the app must be searched for in French or English. Once it is downloaded, the African language of choice can be selected from the Main Menu. The iTunes store does not list any of these African languages as a category, not even Swahili, a regional language spoken by upwards of 140 million people.
Code Innovation has repeatedly approached Google and Apple to request that these African languages be included as language categories on their respective app platforms and app stores. To date, we have received no response. However, we continue to believe that local language content is pivotal in public health outreach and efforts, and we hope to influence these technology companies in this regard.
"About Ebola" empowers and encourages every one of us to educate ourselves and others about what we can to do contain the Ebola response and prevent the dangerous spread of Ebola rumors and misinformation. National health systems and medical caregivers are just one part of the bigger picture. We all have a part to play.
We continue to be open to receiving relevant language translations from volunteers, so if you'd like to help out, please get in touch.
For media and translation inquiries please contact Elie Calhoun at firstname.lastname@example.org.