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Mobility as a tool for Pandemic Management

With the frequencies of pandemic diseases increasing, governments, world over should look at effective tools that can enable them manage the diseases more effectively. Mobile phones even the most basic ones can aid governments across key pandemic management activities. This is truer in developing countries where the mobile penetration has been more rapid than traditional telephony. For example over 40% of Indian population including people in the remote rural areas has access to mobile phones.

So, what can a mobile do?

Managing a pandemic covers 3 main facets - precaution, treatment and prevention.
 1.Precaution to avoid spreading,
 2.Treatment covers early identification, isolation and treatment of the affected and
 3.Finally Prevention ensures the right vaccination to be delivered in an effective time-bound manner  across the country.

The main challenges for effective management of the above activities are:
 •Creating awareness and enabling public to take the necessary precautions at a national level within a  short span of time
 •In case of affliction ensuring that help is on-hand whenever and wherever a person requires it
 •Ensuring that vaccinations are effectively done covering the entire population

Mobile phones can be an effective delivery aid for all the above:
 •Government in partnership with mobile service providers can effectively and continuously reach out to the  entire population through SMS (text and voice)
 •Help desks and multi-lingual IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems can deliver much needed advisories  to the public.
 •A central pandemic management system can enable real-time update and delivery of disease specific  information to the entire population.
 •Location awareness of callers can be used to direct people to the nearest health center capable of  diagnosing and treating the disease.
 •Service provider infrastructure can be leveraged to effectively identify help desks at the nearest health  center and route help calls appropriately.
 •Information on vaccination clinics can be delivered in a guaranteed manner significantly increasing the  reach and awareness of the government's vaccination program.
 •Feedback via SMS and IVR can effectively close the loop - enabling the central pandemic management  committee to track the progress of the initiative and identify bottlenecks early in the cycle. This also  cuts the tapes and enables public to directly voice their concerns and viewpoints to powers that matter.

All the technologies and infrastructure required to do the above currently exist and can be rolled out rapidly. It is important for governments to include the above as part of their disaster management planning. Regulations along the lines of E911/CALEA can ensure compliance and readiness of communication and healthcare service providers to support such scenarios.

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