Philip and Malan Joubert are brothers from Cape Town behind the innovative eHealth Ebola Care app that is helping NGOs and healthcare workers combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Using their engineering backgrounds, the brothers co-founded their app development company, Journey, in 2009. They collaborated with Vodaphone on their first mHealth project called Nompilu, a project that aimed to help community caregivers carry out home-based care using their mobile phones. “Nompilu was a challenging app to build, so we essentially developed a platform that made it possible to visually develop the app. From there we realised we could use the platform to develop apps for a variety of businesses, and so Journey grew and diversified,” said Philip.

The brothers got the idea to develop the Ebola Care app when they relocated to Silicon Valley in the US to expand their business. They became increasingly aware of the potential global impact the Ebola crisis could have. As the crisis escalated, they realised that even in the midst of the technology giants of Silicon Valley, a South African start-up experienced in mHealth could do something significant in the fight against Ebola. “The Ebola outbreak is the kind of thing you assume ‘other’ people are worrying about until you realise that perhaps you are ‘other’ people, and it’s time to start doing something,” said Phillip.

They contacted Liberia-based NGOs to find out what their biggest struggles were in combating the disease. Data Manager at NGO More Than Me, Sam Herring, highlighted the need for real-time data collection. “In order to be effective during any crisis, accessing real-time data is paramount as time is of the essence,” said Herring. Four days later and with the help of the rest of the Journey team, a mobile solution was deployed in Liberia.

It was also essential to identify the worst affected areas and maximise efficiency.  Journey utilises GPS co-ordinates to trace those infected and their families, and to assist ambulance teams capture vital information from patients. Many of the most affected areas do not have street names and use paper-based medical records, making the app’s capacity to identify affected ‘cluster’ areas and digitally monitor health workers movements a pioneering step in the fight against Ebola. “The Ebola Care app allows us to respond in an efficient manner. Efficiency stops the spread, and stopping the spread saves lives,” said Herring.

Another asset of the app helps NGO’s in the care of children abandoned or orphaned due to the outbreak, and monitors children under the 21-day quarantine period. “I hope every NGO responding to the Ebola crisis can get access to this app,” said Herring.

Journey essentially customises the app’s capability according to the specific needs of the NGO because a single NGO rarely requires all the app’s assets. Journey has funded all of the development, and is providing the Ebola Care app for free to anyone involved in the Ebola battle. However, to get phones deployed to aid organisations the project needs financial support from the global community. “So far we’ve funded the entire project and initial phones, but to scale further we need support,” said Phillip. “We want to get 1000 phones with the Ebola Care app deployed in West Africa. To do that we need to raise enough money to buy the phones.”

Philip concluded by saying that they are planning on developing the app further in the future so it can be tailored to meet the more general requirements of healthcare workers in low resource settings. “We built the Ebola app quickly based on the requirements of the healthcare workers – to replace paper forms and give decision makers real-time access to data from the field – not around what we thought what was needed. We wanted to create an app that could be tailorable and responsive to the Ebola problem, as well as to any other future problems.”

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