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Big Data helps study readiness for emergency health care in Senegal

Researchers participated in a competition and analysed locations of emergency care centres.

Aalto University took part in the Data for Development (D4D) Challenge Senegal organised by the telecommunications company Orange. The aim of the competition, which was held for the second time, is to study large amounts of data which is generated from subscribers everyday use of mobile networks. This network generated data on users of mobile networks can be utilised in the planning of the activities of society in different areas.

The best projects in the competition were presented with awards on 7 - 10 April at the NetMob Conference hosted by the MIT Media Lab in Boston. Aalto University and its partners in collaboration received the Practical Application Prize.

Help that is close enough

Invited to the 2015 competition were 150 research groups, of which 60 were selected for the final and 10 received awards. The research groups analysed a database of mobile network connections collected in Senegal, using it to develop new applications that could promote the country's development and improve living conditions among the population, in areas such as agriculture, health care, and transport planning. The data for the research work was received in September 2014 and the research was sent to the competition in the end of December of that year.

'Our international research team, which was convened rapidly, included members from France, Tunisia, and the United States. With the help of the real data that we had at our disposal we studied how well located the health centres are in relation to where people in Senegal live. We recognised the high-risk areas where the distances for getting treatment were too great, especially in cases of life-threatening emergency health conditions. The information was passed on to parties planning health care in Senegal', says the coordinator of the research group, post-doctoral researcher Edward Mutafungwa of Aalto University.

In their investigations, the researchers focused on selected sudden illnesses. For instance, in events such as heart attacks, access to treatment is especially important in terms of time. With the help of the data, researchers were able to visualise places where emergency care was accessible within the recommended time, as well as, identify locations that were outside this safe zone from an emergency care perspective.

The successful project brought together experts in different fields ranging from mobile communications, data analytics, health informatics and public health. The study was conducted mostly using online collaboration tools in a short time and with good cooperation.

'At Aalto University we conduct both basic research and applied research in mobile technology, in which the goal is to find solutions to global challenges concerning general security, health, energy, or the environment. Experiences from virtual collaboration are very good', says Professor and Vice Dean Jyri Hämäläinen.

The study was conducted at the Department of Communications and Networking of the School of Electrical Engineering.

Further information:
Post-doctoral Researcher Edward Mutafungwa, [email protected], tel. +358 50 4355 673

Professor Jyri Hämäläinen, [email protected], tel. +358 50 3160 975

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