WHO Partners with Facebook to Provide Data-Free COVID-19 Info | Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

The World Health Organization (WHO) has partnered with Facebook and South African based Praekelt.org to provide data-free information on the COVID-19 pandemic to vulnerable communities across the globe.
This is said to add a vital element to the organisation’s work to fight misinformation – and ensure everyone has access to accurate health information and resources on COVID-19.
In announcing this partnership, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Through this collaboration, we will reach some of the most vulnerable people who will be able to access lifesaving health information without any data charges in more than 50 countries”.
The collaboration makes use of Free Basics and Discover by Facebook which provides people with access to useful services on their mobile phones in markets where Internet access may be less affordable. The websites on Free Basics and Discover by Facebook – including WHO’s COVID-19 platform – are available for free without any data charges.

Based on a founding premise that access to information is a fundamental right, Praekelt.org has worked with Free Basics and Discover by Facebook for several years. Among past projects was the Praekelt.org Incubator for Free Basics with Facebook programme. The programme provided NGOs and social enterprises with the support and tools they needed to deliver content and services to poor and marginalised communities via mobile.
“After a successful WHO Health Alert launch on WhatsApp in March we are honoured to be able to continue our partnership with the World Health Organization and Facebook, to extend the accessibility of vital COVID-19 information and resources as the virus accelerates globally,” says Debbie Rogers, MD of Praekelt.org.
The July 2020 partnership between WHO, Facebook and Praekelt.org has resulted in an easy-to-navigate WHO mobile website that provides detailed advice for the public including how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, mythbusters, and how best to look after your physical and mental health.
There is also a dedicated section for healthcare workers which includes advice on the use of masks, the rights and responsibilities of health workers, and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Along with up-to-date information and statistics, WHO’s COVID-19 information in Free Basics and Discover, also includes the latest WHO news as well as a selection of questions and answers that address some of the defining issues around COVID-19, including violence against women, pregnancy and childbirth and mass gatherings.
The website is being launched in English with French, Spanish and Arabic to follow in the coming weeks. Other languages will be added as they become available.

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Nearly one in six Britons would refuse Covid-19 vaccine – survey | Media- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Nearly one in six Britons would refuse Covid-19 vaccine – survey | Media- Tempemail – Blog – Tempemail.co

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Nearly one in six Britons will refuse a coronavirus vaccine if and when one becomes available, and a similar number are unsure whether they will get one, according to a survey.
The findings come amid a significant rise in anti-vaccination sentiment on social media, and represent a threat to efforts to contain the disease.
“Our hope for a return to normal life rests with scientists developing a successful vaccine for coronavirus,” said Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a non-profit organisation that commissioned the research. “But social media companies’ irresponsible decision to continue to publish anti-vaccine propaganda means a vaccine may not be effective in containing the virus. The price for their greed is a cost paid in lives.”
According to the polling carried out by YouGov for CCDH, 16% of British adults “probably” or “definitely” will avoid a Covid-19 vaccine. The poll of 1,663 people found differences between those who get the majority of their news from social media and those who rely more on traditional media: the latter were nine percentage points more likely to say they would definitely or probably get the vaccine.
The 150 largest anti-vaccination social media pages and YouTube channels tracked by CCDH have collected about 8 million more followers since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, and the 400 outlets in the sample have a combined 55 million followers.

Data from Public Health England at

“>Some of those pages have published false conspiracy theories including that Bill Gates created the pandemic, that vaccines cause Covid-19, and that tests for a coronavirus vaccine have caused women to become infertile.
The majority of the followers are on Facebook, despite the company officially opposing anti-vaccination content. In July 2019 the company announced policies to reduce the spread of posts with “exaggerated or sensational health claims”.
A Facebook product manager said at the time: “People come together on Facebook to talk about, advocate for, and connect around things like nutrition, fitness and health issues. But in order to help people get accurate health information and the support they need, it’s imperative that we minimise health content that is sensational or misleading.”
As well as so-called organic sharing, both Facebook and Twitter have enabled advertising opposing vaccination, despite bans on such promotions on both sites. Those adverts come from influencers including David Wolfe, described by the CCDH as “an anti-vaccine wellness guru”, who promoted a popular panacea, colloidal silver, as “my #1 recommendation under the current crisis”.
The group said: “Other adverts featured Judy Mikovits’ anti-vaxx conspiracy theories, who featured in the notorious Plandemic film, and adverts placed by Robert F Kennedy Jr’s Children’s Health Defense campaign that promote health misinformation about both vaccines and 5G mobile phone signals.”

Callout
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“>Advertisers can target their promotions at users who Facebook’s algorithm has decided may have interests such as “vaccine-preventable diseases” or who have liked the page “Talk About Curing Autism”. On Twitter, advertising categories such as “antivaxx” and “natural immunity” are available for all to use.
“This sophisticated ecosystem has grown by exploiting weaknesses in each social media company’s policies on anti-vaxx and health misinformation,” Ahmed said. “Each platform plays a role in feeding and growing the whole.
“Full-time anti-vaxx campaigners doubled their reach by broadcasting their message on YouTube channels that peddle conspiracy theories and false cures. In turn, these campaigners lend their brand and audience of activists to a thriving industry of anti-vaxx entrepreneurs using Facebook as a shopfront.”
Ahmed added: “Both groups have benefited from the reach of professional conspiracists on YouTube and from a network of Facebook groups that turns vaccine sceptics into true believers using psychological hacks like the dopamine hit for ‘likes’ and the fear of abuse for nonconformity.”

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Air Quality Has Sharply Improved Around the World During COVID-19 | Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Sourced from The South African.

While no person would choose to go through the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, researchers worldwide are keen to investigate the effects of this crisis global experiment.
Sustainability experts, Lerato Moja, deputy director for South Africa’s department of environmental affairs and Lungile Manzini, assistant director for the department, write about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the quality of air, nature and environment.
Around half of the world’s population is on lockdown in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19, a public health emergency that has claimed thousands of lives and sparked fears of the worst global recession since the Great Depression.
This has brought about a profound change in the quality of air, water as well as the environment.

Drastic changes in natural environments
Noticeably, many countries including South Africa have seen some positive change in terms of the natural environment, and other countries have seen a drastic reduction in air pollution as industries shut down with fewer cars on the road and flights suspended during this period.
Media reports also concur and point out that changes on the environment have been noticed in Northern Indian state of Punjab, where people have been able to see the Himalayan Mountain from more than 160 km away because of the reduced air pollution during the COVID-19 lockdown, a first in more than 30 years.
In South Africa, The Guardian reported that lions at the Kruger Tempemail Park have been seen sleeping and lying around on the road as people remain in their homes. Academic research journals state that satellites have shown cleaner air across Europe, North America and Asia.
In a study measuring air quality in Bangladesh, the results indicated that there was a notable reduction of 40%, 32% and 13% compared to the daily mean concentrations of previous dry seasons for PM2.5, PM10 and NO2 respectively during the COVID-19 shutdown.
The reduction in air pollution has been welcome as researchers from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that dirty air makes COVID-19 more lethal.
This study found that the tiny pollutant particles known as PM2.5, breathed over many years, sharply raise the chances of dying from the virus. Additionally, the dangers of air pollution have been highlighted by the World Health Organisation (WHO). WHO estimates that more than 4.2 million people die worldwide due to the exposure of ambient (outdoor) air pollution.
We need to look to the future
These improvements in air quality are going to be temporary, write Moja and Manzini, however, it gives a glimpse into what air quality could look like should society commit to a cleaner and sustainable future.
Post-lockdown as economies open, the impact on the environment might be dire unless alternative sources of energy and public transport amongst other matters are adopted.
“As we look forward to the research findings and recommendations on the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, it is imperative to note that while no person chooses to go through this pandemic, the power to truly transform the environment and make the best decisions for the future generation begins and ends with us,” they conclude.
By Lungile Manzini and Lerato Moja, sustainability experts at the Department of Environmental Affairs.
Edited by Luis MonzonFollow Luis Monzon on TwitterFollow Tempemail on Twitter

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African Airline Industry Lost $55 Billion from COVID-19 Lockdowns | Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Sourced from The African Report.

Africa’s travel and tourism industry have lost $55 billion due to the closure of borders across the continent in attempts to stave off the spread of the novel coronavirus.
This is according to the African Union, who says that on the continent where safaris are a powerful overseas tourism market, the sector has been crushed by hard lockdowns that sealed air, land and sea borders.
“The impact is really severe,” says Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for the African Union during a virtual briefing organised by the World Economic Forum and the WHO on Thursday.

“We are talking here about $55 billion lost within three months in a year when we were supposed to see an increase in travel and air transport.”
“There are airlines that may not survive COVID-19,” Abou-Zeid warned.
She would go on to say that, in Africa, tourism is not a luxury but a livelihood for millions across the continent.
Countries attempt to re-open industry
Times Live writes that countries in Africa are forging ahead to re-open air traffic and save their massacred tourism industries despite a steady rise in infections.
A handful of states opened their borders last week, countries like Zambia and Sierra Leone. Senegal is set to re-launch international air-travel from 15 July.
“As we are going to open… we are also now pushing for intra-African tourism,” Abou-Zeid says.
She calls for “Africans to see Africa” and pushes for lower taxes, reduced ticket faires and visa facilitation to encourage tourism between African nations.
Prosper Zo’o Minto’o of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) says that the impact the virus has had on the African airline industry is ‘alarming.’
Zo’o Minto’o estimates that a $20 billion stimulus package, at the very least, would be required to aid the industry back into the sky as it was before the pandemic struck.
COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa
As of now, the continent has recorded more than 420,000 COVID-19 cases and over 10,000 deaths.
South Africa is the hardest-hit country in sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for a third of total numbers in the region.
WHO regional chief Matshidiso Moeti has warned of a “certain underestimation of cases” due to test kit shortages and the tendency to test only symptomatic patients.
Edited by Luis MonzonFollow Luis Monzon on TwitterFollow Tempemail on Twitter

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INTERVIEW: How IBM and WITS are Enabling Data-Driven Decisions to Flatten the COVID-19 Curve | Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

With the ongoing battle against the spread of COVID-19, it’s said that timely and accurate data could help governments stay ahead of new transmissions and ultimately flatten the curve.
With this in mind, IBM Research Africa, WITS University and the Gauteng provincial government have joined forces to develop a powerful data-driven dashboard to help make data-driven decisions when it comes to halting the spread of the virus.
ITNA’s Jenna Delport spoke to Sibusisiwe Makhanya, Data Scientist at IBM Research Africa, about this pioneering tool and how it’s aiding the government during this pandemic. Here’s is what transpired:
With the ongoing battle against the spread of COVID-19 in mind, how does timely and accurate data assist government to stay ahead of new transmissions and flatten the curve?

For several years IBM Research Africa has been studying how to eradicate malaria and what we have learned is that there is bias in the decision-making process. Should we use nets or sprays is the common question, but the answer rarely takes into account the time of year, location and the weather — decision-makers are biased based on what worked previously.
But using a combination of data and technology my colleagues at the IBM lab in Kenya and with partners at the University of Oxford were able to demonstrate that it’s possible to determine higher performing future intervention strategies down to the regional level.
The same applies to COVID-19. Our dashboard can help officials visualize data based on the past, while also using a predictive prediction engine developed by epidemiologists and data scientists at Wits University to peak into the future. It’s giving policymakers the ability to make data-driven decisions.
IBM Research Africa and WITS University are said to be actively developing machine learning-powered and cloud-driven technologies to aggregate and understand COVID-19 related data, what kind of insights can this data provide?
The predictive engine developed by WITS provides “what if” predictions, such as estimating how many beds and ventilators will be needed for each of the five alert levels for non-pharmaceutical intervention control strategies. The team from WITS have a paper currently being peer-reviewed offering the following:
While lockdown measures have been successful in curbing the spread, our study indicates that removing them too swiftly will result in the resurgence of the spread within one to two months. Reducing the stringency index by 10 will delay reaching the apex by about 6 months, where reducing it by 20 will delay by only four. This indicates that post-lockdown measures should be staged and the reduction of the stringency index should be slow.
I would also like to point out that in addition to IBM and WITS, Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO) and the Gauteng Provincial Government made this collaboration possible.
Has the partnership between IBM Research Africa and WITS University, in producing a powerful data-driven dashboard, actually made an impact on governments ability to make data-driven decisions and ultimately prevent the next hot spot from popping up?
The dashboard is just rolling out so it’s too soon to tell but Mduduzi Mbada, Head of Policy Research & Advisory Services Unit at the Office of The Premier for the Gauteng Province is optimistic making the following statement during the THINK Africa Summit last week:
“We believe this pioneering initiative will help us win the fight on flattening the curve, but also to build a strong public health system and bring back the economy because of the impact of COVID-19.”

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GirlCode to Host Virtual Hackathon Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic | Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

GirlCode has announced that its inaugural hackathon will be taking place – this time as a virtual event held in August to coincide with the Women’s Month celebration. The organisation says that COVID-19 has presented a unique opportunity to provide innovative solutions to bridge the digital divide, hence the seventh instalment of the annual hackathon is dubbed “Hack from Home”.
GirlCode notes that the global pandemic’s impact on the vulnerable populations of South Africa is unprecedented but with various lockdown restrictions imposed, technology was and still is relevant to allow us to work, transact and to keep us connected.
The hackathon’s objective is to entrench and elevate interest in coding and in turn, afford tertiary students eager to join the software industry with an opportunity to develop practical skills needed to enter the corporate environment.
GirlCode anticipates hosting participants from all over South Africa who will stand a chance to win prizes ranging from laptops to tablets and a grand monetary prize. Individuals may enter the hackathon as part of a group of two to four. Registration will be opened from 1 July and close on 24 July 2020, all interested can register here.

“We are thrilled to host our inaugural virtual hackathon. I encourage participants to think about local solutions that relate to one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals within the context of a COVID-19 period. To build solutions that connect people and drive better productivity. This can be a solution about local deliveries, small businesses serving their communities, women in rural areas selling their beaded work online, the sky is the limit”, says GirlCode Chairwoman, Zandile Mkwanazi.

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The Value of Digital Currencies During the Age of COVID-19 | Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Sourced from Hacker Noon.

“Money is no longer the commodity it was a decade ago. How we acquire money is changing, and so is the form of money,” writes John Lombela, MD of African investment and tech company Cryptovecs Capital.
He says that with the changing business landscape and the digital evolution, the only way one can define their digital future is by becoming familiar and looking at new digital assets especially if they are seeking funding for their business.
“Gone are the days of depending on a bank loan or family and friends investing in your business. Entrepreneurs and those seeking funding can now consider cryptocurrency lending because it offers high yielding gains through margin trading on specific exchanges by lending cryptocurrencies,” Lombela continues.
This move has resulted in traditional financial institutions slowly losing their grip on the market because they are no longer the only option for individuals and businesses.

Crypto takes centre stage
Lately, thanks to technological advances, digital currencies are taking the centre stage but the‌ ‌spotlight isn’t being ‌shone‌ ‌on‌ ‌non-traditional‌ ‌financial‌ ‌institutions as yet. Despite all this, it still seems as though familiarity still wins.
Some non-traditional financial institutions offer ‌solutions‌ ‌to‌ ‌some‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌challenges‌ ‌faced‌ ‌by‌ ‌”traditional” financial‌ ‌institutions because there is less red tape involved.
Traditional financial institutions still ‌play a huge role in spearheading activities needed to have a thriving economy but the onset of COVID-19 has turned this on its head by forcing the financial industry to revaluate its business model. Opening doors for other non-traditional financial institutions and their lending or fundraising models even if it’s still on a small scale.
A good example of this is with custodian banks.
Lombela says that, sadly, custodian‌ ‌banks are often overlooked because unlike traditional banks their core‌ ‌function‌ ‌is‌ to ‌secure‌ ‌the‌ ‌assets‌ ‌of‌ individuals‌ ‌and‌ ‌firms‌ ‌even though it ‌doesn’t‌ ‌offer‌ ‌direct‌ ‌customer‌ ‌services‌ ‌such‌ ‌as‌ ‌lending,‌ ‌collections‌ ‌and‌ ‌deposits‌.
Entrepreneurs need to start looking for non-traditional means
“As things stand entrepreneurs and fund seekers need to look at other ‌non-traditional‌ ‌financial‌ ‌institutions‌ ‌such‌ ‌as‌ ‌ insurance‌ ‌companies, ‌venture‌ ‌capital‌ ‌firms, ‌brokerage‌ ‌firms, ‌ ‌currency‌ ‌exchanges, ‌and‌ even‌ ‌cryptocurrency‌ ‌exchanges,” he says.
“What most people don’t realise is that a‌ ‌start-up‌ ‌company‌ ‌could‌ ‌seek‌ ‌the‌ ‌help‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌venture‌ ‌capital‌ ‌firm‌ ‌to‌ ‌raise‌ ‌funding‌ ‌for‌ ‌their‌ ‌business,‌ ‌while‌ ‌another‌ ‌entrepreneur‌ ‌could‌ ‌seek‌ ‌the‌ ‌services‌ ‌of‌ ‌currency‌ ‌exchange‌ ‌firm‌ ‌to‌ ‌move‌ ‌funds‌ ‌to‌ ‌expedite‌ ‌the‌ ‌service‌ ‌delivery‌ ‌to‌ ‌their‌ ‌customers.‌”
According to Lombela, in this particular day and age in order to survive and get ahead, entrepreneurs need to explore other avenues and reinvent themselves.
“One thing that I have seen is that the‌ ‌advent‌ ‌of‌ ‌these‌ ‌technologies‌ ‌has‌ ‌ultimately‌ ‌put‌ ‌pressure‌ ‌onto‌ ‌existing‌ ‌traditional‌ ‌financial‌ ‌sectors‌ ‌and‌ ‌spearheaded‌ ‌the‌ ‌adoption‌ ‌of‌ ‌some‌ ‌of‌ ‌these‌ ‌latest‌ ‌technologies‌ ‌innovations‌ ‌for‌ ‌some‌. While‌ ‌others‌ ‌have‌ ‌adjusted‌ ‌to‌ ‌incorporate‌ ‌the‌ ‌fourth‌ ‌industrial‌ ‌innovations‌ ‌into‌ ‌their‌ ‌operations: such‌ ‌as‌ ‌blockchain‌ ‌technology,‌ ‌artificial‌ ‌intelligence,‌ ‌machine‌ ‌learning‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more,” he concludes.
‌Both‌ ‌traditional‌ ‌banks‌ ‌and‌ ‌custodian‌ ‌banks‌ ‌offer‌ ‌services‌ ‌that‌ ‌will‌ ‌often‌ ‌work‌ ‌in‌ ‌tandem.‌ ‌The‌ ‌main‌ ‌difference‌ ‌with‌ ‌custodian‌ ‌banks‌ ‌is‌ ‌the ability to‌ ‌provide‌ ‌the‌ ‌holding‌ ‌and‌ ‌safekeeping‌ ‌of‌ ‌assets‌ ‌including‌ ‌digital‌ ‌assets‌ ‌or‌ ‌crypto-assets.‌
By John Lombela, MD of Cryptovecs Capital
Edited by Luis MonzonFollow Luis Monzon on TwitterFollow Tempemail on Twitter

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MultiChoice Joins the UN’s Campaign Against COVID-19 Misinformation | Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Sourced from Tech Central.

The MultiChoice Group has announced its latest initiative in the fight against COVID-19.
As part of its ongoing efforts to raise awareness through information, the Group has come on board as an official supporter of the United Nations’ global COVID-19 awareness campaign: Pause which launched globally on 30 June 2020.
The aim of the Pause campaign is to highlight the dangers of sharing false information related to COVID-19. The campaign asks everyone to “pause, think and take care” before sharing information which could be inaccurate or misinformed and may have harmful effects.

“We are in a moment of global reckoning as COVID-19 and its social and economic consequences challenge the world in unprecedented ways. Misinformation, hate speech and fake news are fueling and distorting all of these challenges and eroding the truth. We are very excited to have MultiChoice on board as a supporter giving the launch of our campaign reach across Africa. They are uniquely positioned to deliver this important message to their diverse audiences across the continent,” said Robert Skinner, Senior Adviser for Global Communications at the UN.
“The dissemination of credible information has become critical to fighting this epidemic which continues to impact millions across the globe and our continent. We are therefore honoured to be able to utilise the continental reach of our broadcast and digital platforms across Africa to empower people with vital information,” says MultiChoice Group EC Imtiaz Patel.
MultiChoice says that it continues to seek opportunities to use its platforms to combat the spread of COVID-19. Supporting initiatives such as the Pause campaign and airing educational and news related content aligns to the organisation’s commitment to making an impact in the communities where it operates.
The campaign launched globally with critical information broadcast across Africa through the DStv and GOtv on-air and digital platforms, SuperSport and M-Net properties and Showmax.
Edited by Luis MonzonFollow Luis Monzon on TwitterFollow Tempemail on Twitter

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Twitter Flags Tweets Unrelated to 5G or COVID-19 as Misleading – Blog – 10 minute

Twitter has confirmed that a number of tweets – unrelated to conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19 and 5G – were flagged as misinformation. And now the social media platform says that it will do more to improve how it labels content.
“In the last few weeks, you may have seen Tweets with labels linking to additional info about COVID-19,” tweeted Twitter Support. “Not all of those Tweets had potentially misleading content associating COVID-19 and 5G. We apologize for any confusion and we’re working to improve our labelling process.”

Our policies prohibit sharing false or misleading content related to COVID-19, as this could lead to harm. More on this: https://t.co/h8rRHrn2xj (2/4)
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) June 26, 2020

According to The Verge, the company began fact-checking tweets that linked 5G and the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year, by adding the label that reads “get the facts about COVID-19” which links to a Twitter moment with “No, 5G isn’t causing coronavirus” as its title.
At the time, a Twitter spokesperson said, “we’re prioritising the removal of COVID-19 content when it has a call to action that could potentially cause harm.”
However, it would seem that the company perhaps too eager in its attempt to monitor content as tweets including the words “oxygen” and “frequency” were being tagged with the fact-check label.
“Labelling Tweets that may contain misleading information continues to be an iterative process,” says a Facebook spokesperson. “Given the global spread of misinformation and disputed claims around 5G and COVID-19, we prioritized algorithmically labelling Tweets with that information. As we improve this process to be more precise, our goal is to show fewer labels on unrelated Tweets.”

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How APIs helped NSW Health Pathology respond to COVID-19 – Strategy – Cloud – Software- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

NSW Health Pathology relied on its investment in API-led connectivity over the past four years to rapidly build out “world-class” public facing services in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Enterprise architect Tim Eckersley told the MuleSoft CONNECT digital summit last week the agency was able to move with speed in the early stages of COVID-19 thanks to its “large library of healthcare microservices”.
The “library of API-led microservices” has been developed over the past four years to allow “seamless integration between a very broad range of healthcare systems”.
He said that “each wave of delivery” had built up a “groundswell of microservices” which – although not always reusable straight away, “the reusable components gradually take a much more dominant posture and provide a really solid launching place to have this rapid response”.
“In terms of what we’ve been able to achieve with MuleSoft, we’ve used it to integrate our four laboratory information systems, which are our core systems of record in the background, with the greater health system,” Eckersley said.
“So that’s the eMRs [electronic medical records] or the eHRs [electronic health records], depending on if you’re in Australia or the United States, as well as the outpatients administration systems.”
“But then also tie those [systems] together with our federal systems, so things like the My Health Record and the national cancer screening registry.”
Eckersley, who heads up the agency’s DevOps group, said the architectural approach had allowed the agency, which is the largest public provider of pathology in Australia, to stand up a text bot to deliver COVID-19 test results to patients in as little as two weeks.
The automated citizen-facing service, which was developed in the first weeks of the pandemic in partnership with AWS, Deloitte, Microsoft, resulted in a drastic reduction in hours – or the equivalent of returning “5000 days of effort back to clinical frontline staff”.
He said the “world-class service” – which returns a test result in less than 24 hours, several days faster than in other parts of the world – was initially piloted with several clinics, before being “rapidly rolled out across the state”.
“All [patients need to do when they go to get a nasal swab taken] is scan a QR code and it immediately pops open a text message of ‘what are my results?’ to our text bot service,” Eckersley said.
“And then that text bot requests that [the patient] put in identifying information, as well as the date their collection was taken, and it will instantly give them the results as soon as they become available.”
The bot integrates with a range of different healthcare systems, including “three Cerner instances” and Auslab, as well as a “Jira service desk that we’ve been able to automate the ticket creation, which allows us to be able to automate the ticket creation”.
“[This] allows us to pick up any of these edge cases which don’t automatically match and push out, and that allows us to keep that ceiling on patient notifications right down to within that three day window,” he said.
“And we’ve also been able to rapidly expand out the different audiences … to repackage that information out to different consumers, so that’s enabled us to leverage our developments to feed out the information to public health and our Service NSW partners. 
“But also build our agent portal, which really provides a fantastic mechanism for our call centre agents to be able to have a great discussion with patients who haven’t been able to be contacted automatically and figure out what went wrong.”
However, Eckersley said that without the extensive work around building up a library of microservices over the prior four years, the agency would not have been in a position to “respond in as little as two weeks to get the initial service up and running.”
“The critical part of that is adapting [an] API-led pattern to the healthcare industry, and I think this is something that we’ve done relatively innovatively,” he said.
“[By] taking an HL7 message, using the MuleSoft HL7 adapters and then connecting it up with cloud infrastructure like Azure service bus for messaging, we’ve been able make a state-scaled solution really quickly which can pick up the millions of messages that we get running through the state in any given week and handle them in an API-led way.
“So we take that message in HL7, we convert it to XML, and then we push it through our process API layer.
“Then at that point, it is converted into a range of different FHIR [Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources].
“[We’re] able to, once in those FHIR resources, leverage things like Cosmos, which is a NoSQL database at hyperscale, to be able to store that information and present a set of an experience APIs to things like our web and mobile apps, as well as our partners.
“In our case we’ve integrated with Service NSW, and our text bot of course”.
Eckersley said the agency was now in the process of shifting all of its MuleSoft services to Kubernetes “piece-by-piece, rather than taking a big bang approach”, which will allow the agency to reduce risk and prioritise what applications it moves.
Chief information officer James Patterson, who also spoke at MuleSoft CONNECT digital, said reusing as many components as possible had allowed the agency to avoid creating “technical debt”.
“Even where we’ve had things like a billing project that’s using MuleSoft integration to bring data from our legacy systems into our more modern systems, we’ve been able to pick up components of that previous project and reuse them to build these new services,” he said.
“Where we’ve had legacy, we’ve had to build things from scratch in our modern integration environment, and obviously that takes longer and takes more effort.
“So we’re creating a situation where we’re removing technical debt as we go through the crisis, and I think that’s been really centred around our strategy with Mulesoft.
“Where we’ve had nice modular reusable services that we’ve built in our environment, we’ve been able to use them straight away, in hours or days versus weeks to build something from scratch.”
He also said that the upheaval had forced NSW Health Pathology to adopt agile practices, where before the pandemic hit, the agency was only using Agile ways of working only 10 percent of the time.
“I think the opportunity is now there to introduce that way of working into all of our work or most of our work, which will really enhance the experience of our customers internally,” Patterson said.

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