BWIRE: Artificial Intelligence could be helpful in dealing with COVID-19

By Victor Bwire

It’s during such times like the current corona virus outbreak that we ask our ourselves hard questions including how can innovations especially Artificial Intelligence (AI), help us deal with improve our responses and handling of such challenges.

Elsewhere it has been shown what AI and machine automated applications can do several things previously done by human; from smart cities, to facial recognition — not the basic on your phone, but cameras that can detect that you have been to four malls in the city within the past one week and recognize your face when you are exiting at the airport — to fully automated sales points and ticketing centers.

AI-powered tracking and warning systems, intensive observation methodologies and testing can be of huge importance to the country in the war on the corona virus.

Availability of government-run big-data platforms such CCTVs and others stores information of all citizens and foreign nationals and integrates all these for use. With such information, its easier to track those whom s/he had met during that time, and bring them under observation and medical tests.

AIe ensures prompt execution of all these steps. Hospitals, ambulance services, mobile test labs — all rely on IT sector and technology to deliver prompt and efficient services.

Outside its negative side, would the implementation of the huduma number in time have been useful to the country in dealing with the current corona virus, especially in tracking down possible suspects, those self isolating and travel history of people- through obviously the issue of individual privacy has been raised before.

There have been previous innovations where technological applications and mobile phones have been used to tracking and offering health services to malaria patients and reproductive health services to teens.

Tech giants including Google, Facebook, Huawei through their various applications have been working over night elsewhere to support the dealing of the corona virus outbreak. Hopefully, Kenya, which has the presence of such big techs will eventually benefit from such technological innovation.

Today while reading an article by Eunice Kilinzo online, technology and medical services, my mind went to the many other stories I have read relating to technological innovations including mobile phone applications that have helped in enhancing the delivery of health services to Kenyans. Kilonzo talks about “Ada” a mobile application that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to track symptoms to get to the probable cause of an ailment.

The app, developed by Ada Health, a Germany-based health tech company, combines a medical knowledge base with intelligent reasoning technology.

It’s reported that South Korea is fighting the virus by using big-data analysis, AI-powered advance warning systems and intensive observation methodology-the government-run big-data platform stores information of all citizens and resident foreign nationals and integrates all government organisations, hospitals, financial services, mobile operators, and other services into it, which is then integrated and used.

Huawei who are behind the 5G technology and working with Safaricom, who you be assisting Kenya in coming with applications through mobile phones to in mapping out and alerting health providers about the epicenters. Mobile phone operators safaricom and airtel have already reduced and or removed charges on their money transfer services.

I know Huawei since January started on a work from home service, office cleaning, social distance disinfecting office vehicles, employee shuttle buses and checking every employee’s and guests’ temperature, ensuring that all staff who had travelled from any country with any cases have been undergoing 14 days self-isolation and requiring all employees submit daily survey to confirm their health and those of their family in case they need support from us.

The bigger assignment I would expect from them is to scale up management of the critical telecommunications infrastructure and IT systems for government as well as telecommunications companies, which is the back borne of the country’s public awareness, information sharing and money transfer services.

Huawei must ensure that all telecoms systems function and can handle the current cashless economy we are dealing with because of the outbreak including working with Safaricom for M-PESA as well as other critical hardware and software.

I belong to a group started by facebook called, where guys are posting innovations and efforts by tech experts and companies to make a contribution to the handling of the outbreak. For example, site where you log your contacts and you will be notified by email when a peer (or 3rd degree) is found COVID-19 positive so that you can self-isolate. Another interesting innovation is on

With such big technology giants like Google, Facebook, IBM and other having AL research hubs across the continent, we expect technology to play a big roe in dealing with the corona virus on the continent.

Could we see AI-powered drones used in the tracking and monitoring and identification of cases and related interventions in combating the outbreak? We want to see players like the media using technology like skype, google recorders and related audio applications to carry out interviews and bring is news without necessarily attending face-to- face interviews and reporting to newsrooms.

Can those in charge of dissemination of information consider doing multimedia messages that can be shared across the country including with community and locally based journalists to help in public education.

Bwire is the Head of Media Development and Strategy at the Media Council of Kenya