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VODAN-Africa Presents Federated Patient Data Platform for Epidemic Analytics in Health Facilities in Eight Countries

vodan-africa-presents-federated-patient-data-platform-for-epidemic-analytics-in-health-facilities-in eight countries

On Wednesday, November 23, the Virus Outbreak Data Network (VODAN) - Africa Initiative delivered a spectacular presentation that showcased the achievements and innovation. From its inception, VODAN-Africa focused on a mission to generate continuous, real-time, high-velocity clinical observational patient data with high veracity from resource-limited communities that have not been well represented in digital health data.

VODAN-Africa has achieved many milestones since its start in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and these were aptly captured in the presentation by BERT Meerman, the Director of GO FAIR Foundation. His presentation focused on the evaluation and qualification of the VODAN-Africa project. The evaluation covered how VODAN-Africa developed a digital health system for localized patient data residing in the health facility, owned by them and under their regulatory framework. The following criteria were specifically addressed:

  • Creation of semantic data,
  • Deployment of FAIR Data Points (FDPs) in multiple locations,
  • Definition of metadata templates,
  • Knowledge transfer,
  • Definition of FAIR implementation choices in a profile,
  • Data production under the control of the data owner.

Bert Meerman concluded: "I can honestly say with a lot of enthusiasm that the VODAN Africa Project is the best use case, worldwide, that we have seen on the implementation of FAIR. We have seen this as a fantastic opportunity to implement FAIR according to FAIR Principles and Guidelines."

In addition to VODAN-Africa, there are other ongoing FAIR-Initiatives, such as for instance: FAIRDOM, NL-Bioimaging, RDM ToolKit, FAIR, Genomes, Hebon, and European Joint Program on Rare Diseases. These were presented by Dr. Katy Wolstencroft of Leiden Institute of Advanced Data Science, and she concluded that the experience and platform of VODAN-Africa will add immense value to these FAIR Initiatives:

"VODAN Africa has reached a level of maturity in the FAIR ecosystem, and there are a lot of components and resources VODAN-Africa can share with the broader research community", said Dr. Katy Wolstencroft.

Helping to push the broader FAIR-community, 57 VODAN-Africa Researchers working across 12 countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe published 21 research articles under the Data Intelligence Special Issue on Patient Health Records published by MIT and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. These studies are under the following thematic areas:

  • FAIR Guidelines,
  • FAIR Equivalency,
  • FAIR Data Points,
  • Digital Health Interoperability,
  • Regulatory Frameworks,
  • FAIR Data Stewardship,
  • FAIR Data curricula, and
  • Data Access, Control, and Security.

"We are really proud of what VODAN has achieved in terms of federated data-ownership respecting local regulatory frameworks. We are thankful to our partners and that ‹e were able to step in the shoes of giants who paved the way before us", said Prof. Mirjam van Reisen, International Coordinator, of VODAN-Africa.

Accreditation Levels for Data Stewards

The crowning highlight of the presentation was the certification of 30 Data Stewards in FAIR Data Steward Level 1, FAIR Data Steward Level 2, and FAIR Data Steward Level 3. These data stewards demonstrated competencies. According to Aliya Aktau, who is responsible for VODAN-Africa IT Architecture and Documentation, these data stewards have demonstrated competencies in the following areas:

  • Linked data,
  • Vocabulary creation,
  • Selection and reuse,
  • Creation of machine actionable templates,
  • Build semantic data,
  • Deployment of FAIR Data Point (FDP), and
  • Publishing metadata in FDP.

The work started in 2019 with the Go FAIR Implementation Network Africa, chaired by Prof. Mawere, who delivered a report on how the original objectives were met.

“This is a true innovation of African partnership based on African philosophy and values. These concerns around openness, sharing, and joint responsibility” said Prof Mawere.

He added that the VODAN-Africa project had enabled the establishment of GO FAIR Africa and that he would be honoured to chair it together with Hon. Julia Duncan-Cassell from Liberia.

“We look forward to an exciting time as we are winding down the second phase of VODAN-Africa. Having spent two exciting years building this solution by Africans for Africans, and we look forward to being able to run more queries”, Prof Francisca Oladipo, Executive Coordinator of VODAN-Africa, thanking the funders and partners, including Philips Foundation, Invest International, NUFFIC, Google and CordAid as well as the GO FAIR Foundation, Stanford University, Tilburg University, the Paris School of Technology and Society and the Leiden University and Leiden University Medical Centre.

The leadership thanked everyone in VODAN-Africa for excellent teamwork and the team of Mekelle University for delivering excellent technical support. The leadership thanked Dr. Reginald Nalugala for his support to make sure all country coordinators were facilitated to deliver on the project. The team thanked Obinna Osigwe for the work in the background together with everyone else, who had worked extremely hard to deliver on the project.

The Chairman of VODAN-Africa, Prof Mpezamihigo, reflected on the achievement of VODAN-Africa in building the capacity of FAIR Data in Africa. He thanked all the partners in the African University Network on FAIR Open Science for the creation of an ecosystem that can serve the future of research in Africa. He thanked the African partners in the Digital Innovation and Skills Hub (DISH), for capacity building and the Globalisation Accessibility, Innovation and Care (GAIC) Research Group for offering academic support.

VODAN-Africa will now be setting up the International FAIR Data Stewardship Center for FAIR Data creation in Africa, under the leadership of Hon Julia Duncan Cassell from Liberia and Dr. Sakinat Folorunsa, from Nigeria.