Mobile phones assist Caribbean in containing spread of chikungunya

Information generated from mobile phones can be successfully used to contain the spread of non-communicable diseases, as was recently done to stem the spread of the chikungunya virus in the Caribbean. This opportunity was explained in the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) recently published report titled “An assessment of big data for official statistics in the Caribbean”.

The report notes that the use of big data through geospatial (or location) information was used to support healthcare, and to design social intervention measures to address the outbreak of Chick-V across the region.

In Trinidad and Tobago, geospatial applications for smart phones assisted the ministry of health in identifying the location of infected persons and to contain the outbreak. The study also underscored that big data is a viable option for computing official statistics in the Caribbean but highlighted that concerns about the protection of privacy ranked high among the challenges to big data exploration for official purposes.

For this reason, ECLAC has called on Caribbean countries to develop a big data strategy to ensure that they take full advantage of the data revolution for sustainable development.

ECLAC Caribbean’s Statistics and Social Development Unit Coordinator, Abdullahi Abdulkadri, made this call during a presentation he gave on big data at the Caribbean ICT Collaboration Forum held in Port of Spain from 18-19 February.

In his presentation, Abdulkadri called for wider big data collaboration in the Caribbean, especially with big data producers. While noting that ECLAC recognizes the challenges faced by national statistical offices (NSOs) in using big data for official statistics, he indicated ECLAC’s ongoing support to NSOs in improving data dissemination in the region.

Big Data for Official Statistics is a work programme of the United Nations Statistics Division with a Global Working Group (GWG) established to address the benefits and challenges of big data.

Big data is the term used to describe large amounts of digital information generated during everyday activities, such as through internet transactions, from mobile phones, and from global positioning systems. One of the potential benefits of big data in official statistics is its use in the monitoring of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

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