Historic First Data Visiting of Patient Data Stored in Residence Across Continents


2 min read

By Obinna Osigwe

At the onset of COVID-19 outbreak, Prof. Mirjam Van Reisen, the Global Coordinator VODAN Africa, told the world how VODAN Africa FAIR Data Initiative can help scientists across the continent to analyze COVID-19 data to understand where and how the virus moves and assist governments to reach out to protect such communities.

What started as a vision in March 2020 to enable access to critical data needed from Africa to fight and contain the novel coronavirus that is spreading across the globe has now materialized into the deployment of seven machine actionable FAIR Data Points (FDPs) that allows algorithms to find COVID-19 data over the internet.

At the onset of COVID-19 outbreak, Prof. Mirjam Van Reisen, the Global Coordinator VODAN Africa, told the world how VODAN Africa FAIR Data Initiative can help scientists across the continent to analyze COVID-19 data to understand where and how the virus moves and assist governments to reach out to protect such communities.

Today a test to execute a machine-based querying of FAIR Data Points across continents with data held in residence was successful. The test was carried out between Leiden University Medical Center and Kampala International University. The test was demonstrated by Erik Flikkenschild, the Information Manager Research at LUMC and Ms. Mariam Basajja, the Technical Coordinator, VODAN Africa and a Ph.D. student at Leiden University.

We are proud of the progress we have made. We have been able to access data, store it, and kept it at the point of origin. African scientists, together with support from Philips Foundation, and Leiden University have demonstrated the determination to link machine-actionable data and today we demonstrated it is possible to visit data that are curated in residence”, said Dr. Mouhammad Mpezamihigo.

Prof van Reisen congratulated the teams: “Today we have shown the first data-visiting of data safely held in FAIR Data points within the hospitals. Data is handled in accordance with the regulatory frameworks that apply in each location. This is a major step forward to ensure that data stays where it belongs but can serve the global health community to find solutions to the pandemic. It is also proof that the Internet of FAIR Data and Services can be realised.” During the meeting the establishment of the Data Competence Centre of VODAN Africa and LUMC was announced.

The Executive Coordinator VODAN Africa, Prof. Francisca Oladipo, who leads the VODAN Africa Team, highlighted the challenges, achievements and milestones recorded in the past six months. According to her, the VODAN Africa Initiative “gave us an opportunity to learn new things and it gives Africa an important role in the fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic through data science which respects data ownership.”

Prof Oladipo announced: “on the 29th September, 2020, six months since the start, with support from Philips Foundation whose mission is to provide access to care for underserved communities, the Initiative has succeeded in deploying 7 active FDPs that are Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable in Uganda (1), Nigeria (2), Kenya (1), Tunisia (1) and Ethiopia (2).

An elated VODAN African team chaired by Dr. Mouhammad Mpezamihigo, the Vice-Chancellor of KIU, told the audience from Africa and Europe about the progress made over the last 6 months and called the achievement ‘historic’. Ms. Basajja who also serves as the country lead for Uganda spoke about the perspective from Uganda. The team from Nigeria were represented by the country lead Dr. Sakinat Folorunso and Dr. Ibrahim Abdullahi from Ibrahim Badamasi University, Lapai, Niger State Nigeria. 

The Kenya experience were shared by Dr. Reginald Nalugala, while Dr. Meriam Ghardallou informed the audience about the learning points from Tunisia. Dr. Wondimu Ayele and Getu Tadele gave their perspective on the Ethiopia journey. The International Science Coordinator at GO FAIR, Dr. Erik Schultes, Bert Meerman, the Director at GO FAIR, and CORDAID heath data expert, Maarten Oranje, congratulated the historic achievement.

The Virus Outbreak Data Network is a collaboration between universities, health ministries and Data Science & Artificial Intelligence hubs in Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. Members of the Africa Implementation network include; Kampala International University, Leiden University and other universities, Addis Ababa University and Mekelle University in Ethiopia, Université de Sousse in Tunisia, Tangaza University in Kenya, Great Zimbabwe University in Zimbabwe and Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Olabisi Onabanjo University and Data Science in Nigeria.