Tackling Ebola in Africa using digital technology

Ebola is close to claiming 8,000 lives in Africa. Experts at the US Center for Disease Control predict some 1.4 million cases across at least 20 countries before the end of January 2015.

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said, “The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is already a global threat to public health and it’s vital that the UK remains at the forefront of responding to the epidemic.”

The UK launched Operation Gritrock; an 800-man mission to combat the spread of the virus across West Africa. As an urgent priority the Army medical team required training materials that could be easily accessed from any screen device with a web browser and internet access.

The Army approached CDS to work with them in the fight against Ebola on two key projects:

  • a secure microsite to provide training materials for Army medical staff
  • a sensory activated video kiosk, deployed in the field, to help people who suspect they may have the Ebola virus

Gritrock web portal

Having understood the requirement and urgency CDS’ developers and designers got straight to work building a secure training portal which is accessible from any device – desktop, tablet and mobile.

CDS engaged BE Productions a leading video company to create a series of instructional videos for the portal, targeted at Army medical staff and aid workers.

Deadlines on the project were tight. The Operation Gritrock team were being deployed to Africa and urgently needed access to the training materials. CDS responded and within three weeks of the initial briefing launched the Gritrock website. CDS will also provide ongoing support to Operation Gritrock.

Video kiosk with sensory, gesture driven solution

A further major requirement was to develop a video kiosk capable of providing instructions to suspected Ebola victims. The challenge was to provide a way for them to choose their native language without touching any controls, a measure implemented to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus further within the sterile environment of the facility.

Having investigated the technological options CDS selected Microsoft Kinect for Windows V2 to deliver a sensory, gesture driven solution. This involved developing a a bespoke Windows 8.1 application using the Kinect application program interface (API). The Microsoft UK Developer Experience team fully supported CDS on the development of the kiosk solution which will be field tested in January 2015.

Mike Collier, CDS Technical Director said, “It is always gratifying to work on solutions that make a difference and this project has certainly been a project to be proud of for all associated with it.

“Barry Eyre from BE Productions did a fantastic job with the video. Microsoft’s help was greatly appreciated and enormously helpful in accelerating development of the ‘touchless kiosk solution’. We used Agile development methods which allowed us to deliver a fully working solution in a fraction of the time associated with traditional development methods.”

Fergus Bailie, CDS Chief Executive said, “Ebola is a global threat and everyone at CDS is proud to be contributing to the UK’s efforts, working together with the Army and in partnership with Microsoft, to deliver digital solutions that will keep our UK teams safe and aid people in mortal danger from this deadly virus.”

The Army chose CDS to work with them on Operation Gritrock because of their solid track record as an agency capable of delivering secure, fast turnaround and effective digital solutions to the Army, Government, MOD and Emergency Services.

Photos: Simon Davis/DFID (CC licence).
Infographic: Ricci Coughlan/DFID

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