US-based IBM has launched a citizen engagement and analytics system in Sierra Leone, which allows Ebola affected communities to report their issues and concerns directly to the government.

Sierra Leone

In partnership with Sierra Leone’s Open Government Initiative, IBM’s new Africa research lab has developed a system, which helps citizens to communicate their Ebola-related issues and concerns through SMS or voice calls.

Sierra Leone’s Open Government Initiative director Khadija Sesay said: "For us to tackle Ebola, it is crucial to maintain an open dialogue between the government and the people of Sierra Leone.

Featuring supercomputing power and analytics capabilities, the system can rapidly identify correlations and highlight emerging issues across the entire data set of messages through the cloud.

IBM noted that it can create opinion-based heat-maps which correlate public sentiment to location information, as the SMS and voice data are location specific.

IBM research-Africa chief scientist Uyi Stewart said: "As Africa’s first technology research lab, we are uniquely positioned to use innovation to help tackle some of the continent’s biggest challenges."

"We saw the need to quickly develop a system to enable communities directly affected by Ebola to provide valuable insight about how to fight it. Using mobile technology, we have given them a voice and a channel to communicate their experiences directly to the government."

Telco operator Airtel has launched toll-free number, which will allow citizens to send SMS messages, while the SMS data is anonymized by Kenyan start-up Echo mobile.

Image: Working with the Sierra Leone Government, IBM is producing heatmaps showing Ebola-related issues as reported by the citizens of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photo: courtesy of IBM.