Even as dengue cases rise, government approval for a mobile app that could prevent the disease from spreading by speeding up monitoring and intervention is hanging fire.
The Android app can help collate data about governmental programmes to monitor water and vector-borne diseases and update it in a graphical form in real time. All this in less than one-tenth of the time it takes currently.
From the survey of the affected area to the data entry, it takes around a fortnight for information to be collected under the integrated disease surveillance programme (IDSP) about malaria, dengue etc, said Amit Dubey of NGO Taru which developed the app.
Pointing out that seven days could be a matter of life and death for a dengue patient, Dubey said the process could be whittled down to as little as four-five hours through the mobile app.
He recounted a recent instance at Palda to underscore his point. "We sent our volunteers there after a case of dengue was reported from the area. They covered the entire neighbourhood which had around 300-400 houses. We forwarded this information to the joint director (health) who arranged for insecticides to be sprayed in the area the same day. The IMC followed suit a day later," he added.
In response to a question, he said a total of 599 slums within municipal limits were surveyed for developing the mobile app.
"The entire area was divided into six zones and cases of water and vector-borne diseases show up as balloons on the map. The greater the number of balloons, the more the number of cases," said Dubey.
Moreover, the data fed into the app can be downloaded in either PDF or Excel format. "The information does not have to be fed manually through data entry," added the employee for Taru, a partner in the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCRN), an initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation.
The open-source app, titled open data kit and available for download on the Play store, definitely seems like a much-needed anti-disease tool going by what Dubey has to say. So why isn't it being used?
"The app was submitted to a three-member committee which has forwarded it to the government which is yet to approve it," said Dubey.
Joint director, health, Dr Sharad Pandit and IDSP project officer GL Sodhi could not be contacted for comments.