Africa CDC Leverages UN mapping project

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention is using the open-source tools and technology behind Project Connect and Giga to map and connect health facilities across the African continent. Project Connect, which was launched in 2019, has been mapping the location of schools globally and the internet connection of more than 330,000 schools, in order to help governments address connectivity gaps and attract investment. The data collected underpins Giga, a joint initiative of UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union.

Chris Fabian, co-founder and co-lead of Giga, and Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, chief digital advisor for Africa CDC, shared the news in a recent Twitter Space hosted by Devex. Giga’s technology will be used by the Africa CDC to identify the location and internet connection of health centres from satellite imagery, aligning with Giga on their pilot countries and adopting the partnership and financing models they have developed. The partnership points to how open-source tools can enable collaboration across sectors to connect the 2.7 billion people worldwide who still do not have internet access.

The same AI and machine learning models used to find schools on satellite imagery, then layer that data with maps of fibre internet access and mobile coverage, will be used to connect tens of thousands of health facilities across the African continent. Governments can then verify whether internet service providers and mobile network operators are delivering on contracts to connect these communities to the internet. The Africa CDC is repurposing the Giga model as part of its effort to connect African health facilities and 1 million community health workers to the internet by 2030.

One of the major barriers to closing the digital divide is coordination, said Nsengimana. It is a missed opportunity when infrastructure is rolled out to connect a school without also connecting a nearby health facility. Working across sectors, however, can optimise resources and investments. By connecting multiple public facilities at once, it aggregates demand, which means larger contracts and better pricing. Giga plans to connect over 25,000 schools in the next 18 months, and aims to connect the estimated 6 million schools globally by 2030 at a cost of $428 billion.

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