VODAN Africa and Asia 2020: A Snapshot


3 min read

By Obinna Osigwe

The deployment of FDPs is the starting point, but not an end in itself. The end is how we can use these FDPs to serve vulnerable people and communities all over Africa and Asia. How can we make sure that health workers, policy makers, data scientists, researchers have access to the right data that is needed to act and make informed decisions? 

As the world is currently experiencing the second wave of COVID-19, and according to official reports, new strains of the deadly virus have been discovered in Britain, South Africa and Nigeria. Many nations are working round the clock to mitigate the disastrous effects of this menace and the world is yet to recover fully from the effects of the first wave of COVID-19.

 

The Beginning and Milestones Achieved

 From the onset at VODAN Africa and Asia (VODANA), our mission was to “build machine actionable data using WHO standard electronic Case Report Forms (eCRFs) and getting them to the FAIR Data Points (FDPs) that will allow data visiting by algorithms based on the access control given to the data by the data stewards”. 

After many series of Metadata for Machine Workshops (M4M) that spanned 6 months, we were able to deploy 10 machine-actionable FAIR Data Points (FDPs) in 6 African countries and at Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), Netherlands. All these FDPs called home – meaning they were findable by algorithms. 

These achievements were made possible by our team of country coordinators, technical leads and supports, trainers, volunteers from Netherlands, USA, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Kazakhstan and Indonesia too numerous to mention that has been working tirelessly behind the scenes for the project to succeed. And yes, we will succeed! 


VODANA: Towards a FAIRified Society 

The deployment of FDPs is the starting point, but not an end in itself. The end is how we can use these FDPs to serve vulnerable people and communities all over Africa and Asia. How can we make sure that health workers, policy makers, data scientists, researchers have access to the right data that is needed to act and make informed decisions?

In Tunisia, our team lead by Dr Mariem Ghardallou and Ms Morgane created a FAIRified data (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable data) by interviewing 120 respondents from Agadez (Niger); Tunis, Sousse, Sfax, Zarzis, Kalibia, Djerba, Kerkennah, Medinine (Tunisia) and Libya. “More data was also collected by the team through coding 500 relevant media articles. This data was used to create data repositories, catalogs, datasets, and distribution for the FAIR Data Point (FDP) at Tunisia.” 

Our teams in Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Kazakhstan and Indonesia are working closely with their local Ministries of Health (MoH), policymakers and partner institutions toward creating a FAIRified society. This was among the issues discussed at the International FAIR Convergence Symposium organized by CODATA and GO FAIR. 

In her presentation, Ms. Mariam Basajja, one of our technical leads and Ph.D. student at Leiden University spoke on FAIR Equivalence Tool that investigates the feasibility of introducing FAIR in countries that are not in the FAIR IN (Implementation Networks). The focus was on areas of (non-)compliance between FAIR and regulatory frameworks in Uganda, Indonesia, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan. Can we do more? Yes, we can 


Challenges Ahead 

This second wave of COVID-19 poses a new challenge for us, it is glaring to us that our journey is still far ahead, but achievable with a collective sense of purpose. Our major aim now is in the area of data production because at the heart of a working FDP is data, without data there is no efficient FAIR Data Point. This is one of our key focuses on the second phase of the VODANA project. 

According to Prof Mirjam van Reisen, the VODANA Global Coordinator and Prof Francisca Oladipo, the Executive Coordinator, “The next phase of the programme will be on increasing flexibility of data production. This effort will concentrate on the data production of observational patient data in clinics and hospitals. The essence of this effort is to ensure that data production does not add to the workload of record-production in the facilities. It will be necessary to understand the data production of FAIR data in the dataflow of patient records without duplication of data entry. This means, among others, investigating the data entries in different data templates as well as the entry of bulk data.” 

Another important area is the development of Data Stewardship Competence Skills. Every day, the number of data that need to be FAIRified (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) are increasing, this has made the role of data stewards more important than ever before. The training of more data stewards can serve as the engine towards a FAIRified world. 


Will the Future be FAIRified? 

When we started this journey, it was a novel concept to most of our team members. Many questions were raised – what is FAIR Data? What is VODAN-in-a-Box? How can we deploy a FAIR Data Point? We have passed that stage now. Through unflinching determination, teamwork, perseverance and unified sense of purpose, we achieved all the set milestones during the first phase of our project. We ate the apple bite after bite, then we finished it. 

This is what the world needs now – determination, teamwork, perseverance and a unified sense of purpose. The whole world is fighting a common enemy called Corona Virus and this is the time to extend the boundaries of possibilities. 

We must deepen data access, data governance and data interoperability. We will strengthen existing collaborations and create new partnerships. We need to build strong teams for the purpose of knowledge sharing and convergence. We will not relent in strengthening our curricula development that can reflect on the socioeconomic opportunities available to young people in Africa and Asia. 

With all-hands-on-deck, we will create a FAIRified future FAIR Data came with a new way of thinking, therefore at VODANA, we will continue reinventing ourselves as the challenges ahead of us are evolving.

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