Digital Applications Could Revolutionise Humanitarian Action
UCD School of Computer Science and the Irish Red Cross have joined forces to develop digital applications aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarian action. 

UCD President, Professor Andrew J Deeks and Irish Red Cross Head of International Relations and Cooperation, John Roche, travelled to India this week to sign an agreement and to launch a pilot study with the Indian Red Cross. The pilot study will assess the impact a mobile crowd source application will have on the charity’s efforts to combat tuberculosis (TB) in India.

Speaking at the pilot launch, Mr Roche welcomed the partnership and stated, “We believe that effectively leveraging technology in our operations will have a positive impact on our efforts in managing TB, thereby saving lives”.

The mobile app solution aims to engage with stakeholders, including those who have contracted TB and to better understand the challenges faced by them.  One of the main obstacles in combatting TB is treatment default.  Due to financial difficulties, stigmatization and other reasons, patients often stop their treatment before it is complete, putting them at greater risk of developing Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB).  Thanks to UCD’s technology expertise, the mobile app and accompanying web based interface will allow Red Cross staff and volunteers to monitor patients who are at risk of treatment default. Improving their chances of recovery.  

It is hoped that this project will show that an effective usage of information technology can change the face of humanitarian response.  UCD Computer Science academic, Dr Eleni Mangina, states, “That a partnership between emerging technologies experts in academia and humanitarian organisations can provide the means to improve existing operations.

There is a vast amount of digital information available before, during and after a crisis. Telecommunications, drone technology and crowd source applications can assist volunteers and staff improve the overall effectiveness of humanitarian response.”

India has the highest rate of Tuberculosis in the world, accounting for nearly a 5th of all global instances. The Irish Red Cross has been working with the India Red Cross Society in their effort to combat the spread of TB and further control of MDR-TB through a prevention and management of TB programme since 2015. The scope of the intervention, which covers two districts in Punjab state, is especially aimed at patients who default from their treatment.

Since the Irish Red Cross began its work in India, approximately 2,000 people have been screened for TB and more than 131,000 have been reached with awareness information.