Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.

AI

African smartphone users could help find COVID-19 treatment while sleeping

Article Image
African mobile users could help researchers find an effective treatment for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) by simply downloading an app and letting it run on their smartphones while they sleep.

The Vodafone Foundation and scientists from Imperial College London are using their DreamLab app to speed up coronavirus research, using the processing power of smartphones in Africa and across the globe to help analyze complex data. The data will help scientists identify existing drugs and food-based molecules with antiviral properties, ultimately enabling tailored treatments for patients with coronavirus.

The DreamLab app was originally developed by Vodafone Foundation Australia as a way for people to support cancer research while their phones charged overnight. Now a new Corona-AI project has launched on the app, which will use the same technology to help in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

Smartphone users in Ghana, Lesotho and South Africa can now help. The app is also available for download in Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Romania, UK, Portugal and Germany; it will be launching in Ireland, Greece, Turkey and Albania from June 1.

DreamLab is free to download and free to use for Vodafone and Vodacom customers who won't incur any data costs. It can also be used across other networks, with users choosing how much data they wish to donate, or connecting via Wi-Fi.

The project combines artificial intelligence (AI) and the processing power of idle smartphones to speed up the discovery of novel antiviral components in existing medicines and help the hunt for antiviral molecules in foods.

The app works by creating a network of smartphones to power a virtual supercomputer, capable of processing billions of calculations, without collecting or disclosing users' location data. No personal data is downloaded to or processed from the user's device, Vodafone promises.

When asked for more details about the app's privacy settings, a Vodafone spokesperson told Connecting Africa that the app may use user's activity information for analytics purposes "but this will be done on an anonymous and aggregated basis".

"The app requests access to photos, media, files permission in order to store the tiny research problems whilst they are being calculated and solved by your phone. DreamLab will only access the files it has created in the files directories. DreamLab does not need access to any of your private information or photos to be able to solve tiny research problems," the group said.

While traditional research methods could take years to develop, the mobile cloud-based processing approach of DreamLab can drastically reduce the time taken to analyze the huge amount of data that exists.

"A desktop computer running 24 hours a day would take decades to process the data, but a network of 100,000 smartphones running overnight could do the job in just a couple of months," Vodafone Foundation said in a statement.

"We urgently need new treatments to tackle Covid-19. There are existing drugs out there that might work to treat it, but we need to do complex analyses using artificial intelligence to find out which molecule or combinations of molecules might be able to disrupt the virus when it's inside the body. All of this takes a huge amount of computing power and DreamLab enables us to do this important work in a much shorter timeframe," explains Dr. Kirill Veselkov from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London, who is leading the research.

The app is available in the App store for iOS or Play Store for Android.

Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

Innovation hub

Story

Orange Ventures, Digital Africa promise more funding for startups

Orange Ventures and Digital Africa are teaming up to invest more in tech startups in Africa and the Middle East through Digital Africa's Fuz program and the Orange Digital Center network.

Story

Hot startup of the month: Rwanda's Ampersand

Connecting Africa's hot startup this month is Rwanda's Ampersand, which designs, builds, and manufactures electric motorcycles and battery packs for motorcycle taxis.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Sponsored video

More videos

Follow us on X

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Upcoming events

Africa Tech Festival 2024
November 11-14, 2024
Cape Town, South Africa
More Upcoming events

Africa Tech Perspectives

Story

Uber's Marjorie Saint-Lot on inclusion and sustainability in Africa

Uber's Country Manager for Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire, Marjorie Saint-Lot, shares how the ride-hailing company is approaching public-private partnerships, environmentally friendly initiatives and gender inclusion in Africa.

Story

The 100 most influential African leaders in 2023

A new report from Africa Tech Festival and Connecting Africa puts a spotlight on the top 100 African leaders in the telecoms and technology sector in 2023.

Story

Deep dive into East Africa's tech startup ecosystem

New survey reveals a lack of access to investors, reliance on international VCs and global recession trends as the biggest barriers for East African tech startups to access funds.

More Africa Tech perspectives

Guest Perspectives

Story

Omdia View: April 2024

By Omdia Analysts

April 2024's telecoms highlights in the Middle East and Africa included a license for Starlink in Ghana, new mobile termination rates in Ethiopia, and 6G trials in Bahrain – that and more in the latest Omdia View.

Story

Leveraging agritech to build resilience against climate change

By Francis Hook

ICT analyst Francis Hook discusses agritech in Africa and how the agricultural sector is using technology to build resilience against the negative effects of climate change and to ensure food security.

More Guest Perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up


Sign Up
Tag id test-002