Using Technology, Africa is Fighting Ebola on Its Own Terms

“When the Ebola outbreak started, it was very terrifying for everybody,” recalls Michael Chu’no Ike from Nsukka in Nigeria’s Enugu State. “People were afraid it could be transmitted by air and started believing all sorts of rumors about how to boost their immunity.”

The virus has killed over 5,100 people worldwide, eight of which have been in Nigeria. While his home country has been declared Ebola free, Ike is creating a voice messaging system to raise awareness about the killer disease in the worst effected countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

“Over 70 percent of people in West Africa live in rural and semi-urban areas,” explains Ike, founder of the HaltEbola mobile service. “These groups usually do not have access to internet but they have good mobile phone coverage. Therefore, we saw the effectiveness in using the oldest means of communication—voice—to reach people.”

Ike’s vision is to reach people who are afraid to call authorities and ask for help—the plan is that citizens will receive a call from HaltEbola, but instead of getting advice from a foreign doctor, they will hear a recorded message from local celebrities.

“We have connected with George Weah, the retired Liberian footballer, and we hope to get him involved soon,” Ike explains. “People can listen to community leaders more than doctors,” he claims. “That’s the reality, and to tackle this disease, we need to confront the reality.”

The HaltEbola concept impressed judges on the West African Venture Bus, a mobile initiative that travels across Africa connecting entrepreneurs with investors. Ike and his team won the first prize—particularly fitting given that the competition was nearly scrapped because of fears of contestants contracting Ebola.

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