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Refugee community networks to help detect COVID-19 in Ecuador

Mounir Jamil

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COVID-19 in Ecuador

Refugee community networks are aiding in detecting COVID-19 cases in Ecuador, as part of the initiative by the Community Epidemiological Surveillance System (CESS) that is developed and implemented by the UNHCR, the dedicated UN Refugee Agency.

The implemented system ensures that early detection and proper referral for treatment of COVID-19 in Ecuador amongst the country’s refugee population. Since its launch almost a month ago, the system has successfully detected 250 suspected cases of COVID-19 in Ecuador and they have been referred to the proper national health authorities. 

Even though Ecuador grants access to public health services to everyone, regardless of their nationality or residency status, the access is not always direct in practice. Some refugees may be hosted in remote and isolated parts of the country with limited services while other refugees might lack the proper awareness of their rights or might fear getting fined for their irregular status. 

The innovative community health referral strategy being used to combat COVID-19 in Ecuador relies mainly on UNHCR’s pre-existing humanitarian and refugee community networks to aid in identifying COVID-19 cases within refugee and migrant communities.

The network comprises civil society and community organizations that complement the government’s current Epidemiological Surveillance System and can better reach out to refugees and migrants that tend to move throughout the country.

Six nationwide migrant and refugee-led community organizations have been trained by the UNHCR to conduct epidemiological surveillance and detect COVID-19 in Ecuador.

With the use of telephone hotlines, home visits, and the delivery of humanitarian assistance, the UNHCR staff alongside 50 other humanitarian and community-based organizations all help in monitoring and identifying possible COVID-19 cases in Equador among migrant and refugee populations and their corresponding local host communities.

After suspected cases are properly identified by the community network focal point, the information is then logged to an online private database, and an alert is sent to the appropriate public health services that follow up with the case and also give clinical treatment and advice.

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MedTech

The multi-cloud adoption boom

Mounir Jamil

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multi-cloud adoption

As the rapid advancements in tech continue – fueled by the current pandemic – we find ourselves stretching our limits and breaking boundaries. An important area that has gained significant traction this year is cloud computing, and more specifically, multi-cloud adoption.

What is multi-cloud? 

For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, a multi-cloud environment Is when an enterprise utilizes more than one cloud platform and delivers a specific function, application, or service. Multi-clouds can be made up of private, public, and edge clouds to achieve a datacenter’s end goals and objectives. 

Multi-cloud adoption garnered a significant increase to 70 percent year-over-year in 2020, outpacing the previous year by a whopping 20 percent. 

Current State of multi-cloud

The Continuous Intelligence Report The State of Modern applications, DevSecOps and the Impact of COVID-19 from Sumo Logic revealed that customers adopted 3 main vendors to meet their cloud needs; CloudTrail (60 percent), VPC Flow Logs (34 percent) and GuardDuty (22 percent) respectively. 

The report is developed from data that is aggregated from more than 2100 Sumo Logic customers that run applications over several major cloud platforms as well as on-premises environments. The report highlighted the importance of securing cloud workloads via the adoption of both cloud-native security technologies and available cloud data sources. 

Furthermore, the pandemic has highlighted how important remote work is – and that is where cloud-computing shines bright. The rise in multi-cloud adoption led enterprises to modern cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

It is noteworthy to mention that AWS regional centers in the EU and US were among the top targets for hackers, according to the Sumo Logic’s global intelligence. 

What are the benefits of multi-cloud adoption? 

  • Flexibility: No single cloud can perform most business functions, or at least no single cloud can do everything well. Integrating multi-cloud can allocate the right cloud platform to the right business function 
  • Proximity: By hosting some workloads through regional cloud providers that operate closer to where the user is, the enterprise would be greatly enhancing a user’s experience
  • Failover: As a failover solution, multi-cloud adoption can protect an enterprise from outages by providing readily available and highly scalable backup for data and workflows for systems 
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MedTech

Why GovTech adoption during COVID-19 is a must

Adnan Kayyali

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Govtech

GovTech is a new term that refers to the modernization and/or digitization of government services for better accessibility and efficiency of public services. A mouth full, but this suggests a need for governments to do what the private sector has been doing from the start: embrace and incorporate industry 4.0 technology. However, to do so on a governmental level is complex.

The tech revolution occurring around the world, accelerated by the pandemic will not wait for governments to search their paper file cabinet for a solution. Citizens’ expectations of speed and efficiency are set higher by the private sector.

Too many authorities in developing nations, and many government-managed institutions in developed nations, are woefully behind on tech adoption within their systems.

According to the World Bank’s definition as stated in their brief, GovTech is essentially about putting people first.

“GovTech is a whole-of-government approach to public sector modernization that promotes simple, accessible, and efficient government”.

Governments who had already begun improving their digital infrastructure before the pandemic, had a better chance of curbing outbreaks after the initial wave with known exceptions. Namely the US and UK. 

Examples of GovTech used well during the pandemic can be found more to the east, in Singapore and South Korea among others, where data-gathering and citizen compliance with safety measures worked well to begin with.

Still, in the United states we see examples of GovTech being implemented even before the pandemic.

In areas of infrastructure, 120 Water Audit was recently launched, a cloud-based water management software, that a government on any level and size can use to minimize water waste.

During the pandemic, we have seen companies like BlueDot develop early warning systems to predict outbreaks, allowing governments to react preemptively. These systems used data gathered from numerous data sets from news, medical records and airlines to detect certain trends using their algorithm.

In the future, we should expect better GovTech adoption in public health services. Governments must work with the private sector to secure the right systems and consolidate their systems for better data collection. Undoubtedly, this is a long-term process.

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MedTech

Vaccine warriors: University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine update

Mounir Jamil

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University of Oxford

As the race for a new COVID-19 vaccine continues, the University of Oxford vaccine is effective at stopping people from developing COVID-19 symptoms. Overall, results indicated 70 percent protection rate, however, researchers claim that figures can increase to 90% if the dose is modified. 

Study lead, Andrew Pollard, Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity at the University of Oxford, has vast experience in clinical trials of new and improved vaccines for children and adults. 

In comparison to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the University of Oxford vaccine is far cheaper, easier to store and can be transported to every country around the world. It shows highly promising use in tackling the current pandemic, if it gets the approval from regulators, who will assess the vaccine based on safety, efficacy and manufacturing standards. This process is set to take place in the coming weeks.  

While typical vaccines usually take around a decade to be developed, the University of Oxford vaccine was developed in about 10 months. Initial trials involved a sample size of 20,000 individuals: 10,000 participants in the UK and 10,000 participants in Brazil. From the study, there were 30 Coronavirus cases from those who received two doses of the vaccine and 101 cases in people receiving placebo treatment.

The researchers say it works out at 70 percent protection however, it increased to 90 percent when people were given a “low” dose followed by a high one. It remains unclear why there is a difference. 

Although nothing will happen until the University of Oxford vaccine receives full approval, the UK is preparing for an unprecedented immunization campaign. Care home residents and staff will be the first in line while healthcare workers and citizens 80 years and above, will be the next priority. The plan is to steadily work down the age groups. 

After Pfizer and Moderna introduced their vaccine candidates with a protection rate of 95 and 90 percent respectively, a figure of 70 percent might be perceived by some as disappointing. However, in reality, anything above 50 percent is considered promising. 

AstraZeneca, Oxford University’s manufacturing partner is prepping to make three billion doses of the vaccine to be made available worldwide.

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