Africa Emergency Technology Response Forum is a working group of technologists aimed at leveraging collective technology-driven skills and resources for good. It first launched to battle the Ebola virus epidemic that was devastating West Africa between 2013 and 2016 and later played a role in battling the COVID-19 pandemic which impacted the entire world.
This network was a concept of Betty Enyonam Kumahor, founded in collaboration with Emira Woods and David Walton, with Kambale Musavuli as coordinator.
Around 200 people representing a list of organizations, including CASE-Liberia, Thoughtworks, iSpace, and the SBTS Group, joined AETRF to play a role in utilizing technology to combat Ebola. The group included the central coordinating units in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and many more influencers in the affected and neighboring countries.
AETRF had weekly conferences. There, the members cataloged technology solutions, supported collaborations between parties, and hosted hackathon competitions. The network hosted more than 10 hackathons and these include:
Thought Works Uganda Rapid Pro Hackathon:
ThoughtWorks Uganda has had a coder Hackathon to enhance a tool RapidPro for UNICEF – used by healthcare workers. The tool will be deployed to countries affected by the disease.
Africa Open E-health Hackathon:
Aimed to prepare now for the next virus by building the Africa Information Technology Army (AITA) with pronounced capabilities to respond and engage in future health crises, disasters, and large-scale emergencies.
In 2014, AETRF called on African heads of state and governments to implement three key recommendations:
- Increase political commitment to stop Ebola.
- Encourage African countries to launch a “National Call Center for Ebola”.
- Encourage African countries to launch a “National Health Emergencies News and Information Radio Station” along with more usage of television and social media to promote hygiene and health precautions.
The project was a resounding success. Over 45 solutions built by the AETRF were deployed in countries affected by the epidemic and beyond.
Many members also contributed with their experience and technology solutions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The group aims to remain prepared to support organizations and governments in case of future global or African health concerns.