Thank you all dear partners and specifically innovators for continuously engaging with us to enable identification, development, and scaling of potentially transformative solutions to address community challenges both natural and man-made. On Tuesday, April 7, 2020, ResilientAfrica Network (RAN), a project in Makerere University College of Health Sciences School of Public Health successfully held a Webinar on Innovating for Emerging Pandemic Threats: the case of Coronavirus (COVID-19). We attribute all our achievements thus far to hard work, commitment to positively impacting the communities, persistence, focus, creativity among others but also the power of partnership and or collaboration. ‘Thank you Prof. William Bazeyo, Ag. Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Makerere University and Chief of Party at RAN for always setting the pace and ably leading all these efforts. You are indeed enabling all of us to be ‘a Contribution’ to the communities in which we live and serve’ shared Dr. Roy William Mayega, Deputy Chief of Party at RAN.
During the Webinar, which brought together over 80 multidisciplinary national and international participants, Dr. Roy William Mayega, shared a presentation highlighting key aspects of the Human-Centered Design (HCD) to guide creativity and innovation. These aspects include; Need Finding-ascertaining what the actual community or user needs are, Problem Framing, Structured Brainstorming-to list as many possible solutions as possible before converging to one most impactful solution to address the identified problem, Rapid Prototyping-to come up with a likely simulation of the solution and Pitching-to share the proposed solution in order to receive feedback to guide further solution iteration. Prof. William Bazeyo also joined the Webinar session and re-echoed the efforts he is leading to further mobilize resources and partners to support innovation not only to augment efforts to respond to the current Coronavirus pandemic but to largely address several other challenges being faced by our communities.
The Webinar was also an opportunity for us to share details of how the RAN team is already actively engaging to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic. It is through sharing some of these workable solutions that we can continuously demonstrate to the public that innovation (creatively changing the way we do certain things) is possible. See a few updates of what we are pursuing below;
- The EpiTent: Designed in 2015 to address the then devastating Ebola Pandemic challenges, the EpiTent, a humane tent for scaling emergency health care space is now moving to scale. The tent’s smart design drives a convectional current through the cavity and reflects radiation to reduce ambient temperatures by 7 degrees and Tmax by 10 degrees. This mechanism makes the tent ‘insanely cool’, with purely adaptive means. 13 smartly selected accessories supported by its strong steel frame transform it into a ‘portable hospital’ space. Its large enmeshed windows reduce social exclusion and allow for humane views and breath-ability. The RAN team is now undertaking discussions with a Ugandan based credible manufacturer to mass-produce the units and build surge capacity. 50 units are already on order. The tent is associated with 4 active patents with AIPO.
- Collaboration to develop a low-cost ventilator: RAN is coordinating a team of experts from Kiira Motors Corporation, Makerere University and Uganda’s Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation to develop two prototypes of a low-cost ventilator. It is an adaptation of two open designs – one from MIT and another from the University of Florida. By using local materials, the cost of the ventilator should substantially go down. Ventilators would be a life-or-death apparatus in the event that Uganda registers a massive rise in COVID-19 cases-God forbids. Severe cases require to be supported to breathe. But even if the COVID-19 cases did not increase in number, the country has only 55 ICU beds – such ventilators can increase ICU bed capacity to 1000. Vehicle manufacturing companies regularly employ similar technologies to those used in clinical ventilator designs and Kiira Motors Corporation is able to adapt quickly. The two prototypes will be ready on Friday, April 10, 2020, and we will immediately embark on running possible tests. Details are shared on https://t.co/ejLhBlWI5e.
- ‘Akatale App’: Seeded by the Ministry of Information Communication Technology and National Guidance and incubated at the RAN Lab, a team of private entrepreneurs seems to have found their break-through moment for the ‘Akatale App’. It is an errand-running App through which your grocery orders are picked, executed and delivered. COVID-19 lock-down was the catalyst needed for its user community to grow. Over the last 2 weeks, Akatale has grown to 186 subscribers. Will they become a fully established business?
- The RAN team has participated in a brainstorming session with a team from the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) Science and Technology Office to agree on minimum specifications that local manufacturers need to meet in order to mass-produce some key Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) items specifically 1) N95 masks, 2) Hazmat Suits and 3) Face Shields.
- Collaboration to the design of an affordable, re-usable Hazmat Suit for local infection prevention: The RAN team is also in early engagement with students and researchers from the College of Engineering, Design, Art, and Technology to explore cheaper but efficient materials for the design of an affordable, re-usable Hazmat Suit for local infection prevention needs. The standard materials are “breathable non-woven Polyethylene with taped seams, nylon zippers covered by sealable flaps, rubber elastics, polyester cuffs, and polyester or cotton threading. Are there cheaper materials that block 95% of very small particles without being too hot and heavy? Can the designs be more ergonomic e.g. for users with bulky hair, and different hairlines?
- RAN has developed an integrated information App that provides comprehensive information on COVID-19. The App is sharable as a phone readable website.
- Employing Safe Bangle and Centres4Her Innovations to collect incident data on violence against women and girls (VAWG)/gender-based violence (GBV): RAN is in discussions with UN Women to collect incident data on violence against women and girls (VAWG)/gender-based violence (GBV) during this period when we are all fighting against COVID-19. We are discussing possibilities of rolling out the Safe Bangle innovation @SafeBangle and the Centers-for-Her Platform @centres4her ( both developed with support from UN Women) to facilitate rapid reporting and mitigation of violence against women and girls especially now as we observe the COVID-19 lock-down guidelines.
- Online Pitch Tuesday sessions via Zoom: In an effort to further support co-creation, RAN has hosted three COVID-19 related innovation pitches from 3 individual innovator teams so far. These pitch sessions are aimed at further helping innovators or creative thinkers to build their ideas. Pitch sessions and co-creation support to innovators, students, faculty and the community at large will continue online via Zoom. Let us know so that we plan accordingly.
- The RootIO-a Community Radio team (an innovation incubated at RAN through support from USAID), is working to expand community-led messaging for behavior change measures to prevent further spread of COVID-19. This, they will do through the RootIO network of community Radios in Northern Uganda.
Other areas highlighted during the Webinar which we can all further think about include; Fighting fake information about the Coronavirus, using phone data to track movements of people on self-quarantine, addressing the sharp rise in GBV, designing humane infection-free quarantine spaces, fighting stigma, incentivizing homestay, work-at-home as the new frontier for enterprise and child tutoring, expanding digital health: home-based health care, telehealth, m-Health, and personalized medicine.
Keep in touch with us via our Website- https://www.ranlab.org/, Twitter page-@AfricaResilient and Facebook page-Resilient Africa Network for our next Webinar session and other opportunities.