Dengue Early Warning System (DEWS) inspired by Space Enabled Solutions

Thilanka Munasinghe
3 min readJan 13, 2018

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Dengue outbreak in Sri Lanka in the recent past has taken over 5,000 lives and has hospitalized more than 100,000 individuals according to reports by the Sri Lankan government. There are many efforts to manage the situation, with Public Health Inspectors going door to door to check for any mosquito dengue breeding sites, and many mobile based solutions designed and developed by local universities such as University of Colombo, University of Moratuwa, and University of Jaffna that alert the public about dangers of Dengue. There is also a crowd sourcing platform to report Dengue related problems in the works. However, none of these solutions have utilized the freely available satellite data from NASA GPM, JAXA, UNOOSA programs, or have implemented a system architecture that makes a concerted effort from various stakeholders.

I got inspired by the work /research papers published by Dr. Danielle Wood’s MIT Media Lab’s newest research group called Space Enabled to initiate a space enabled solution to develop a Dengue Early Warning System (DEWS) in Sri Lanka. Danielle Wood’s work emphasizes the importance of following and using the “System Architecture” framework to develop complex systems to prevent outbreaks in developing countries. I designed the Dengue Early Warning System (DEWS), a system Architecture Framework for Sri Lanka, following the same approach outlined in Dr. Danielle Wood’s research.

Dengue Early Warning System (DEWS) Architecture localized for Sri Lanka.

I got the opportunity to present my proposal for DEWS at several local universities (Colombo, Moratuwa, and Jaffna), the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies, and at Panadura city regional Municipal Office of Health, Ministry of Health seminar for epidemiologists tackling the dengue epidemic in Sri Lanka during my short visit in Sri Lanka in Dec 2017 — Jan 2018. I also emphasized the importance of utilizing the freely available satellite data in creating the Hazard, Vulnerability, and Risk models.

Here is the slide deck I presented at these institutions.

I am very optimistic that the system architecture I proposed can be implemented very soon with the help of faculty and students from several Sri Lankan universities.

Here are some pictures from the talks and the meetings I had. Together we can make a big difference to save lives from the dengue epidemic in Sri Lanka!

Here’s me (in the pink shirt standing on the right) before speaking to the students and staff at Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technology in Sri Lanka on invitation by Research Scientist Indika Medagangoda (standing on the left). The Chairman Prof. Dhammika A. Tantrigoda, and the Director General Eng. Sanath Panawennage was also in attendance. They both acknowledged the importance of making a concerted effort through a systems architecture approach. — Jan 5th, 2018
The team at Arthur C. Clarke had initial discussions with me to learn more about the architecture I proposed, i.e. DEWS, to combat the dengue epidemic, and discuss state of the art research. The institute currently has a research scientist, Ms Udeshika (on the right), working on a similar problem, and I am planning on collaborating with her. — Dec 28th, 2017
Here’s me (fifth from the left) with Dr. Sanjeewa Perera (third from the left) and his team at University of Colombo. Dr. Perera’s team is working on a Dengue Management system called ProDMS, and they expressed interest in collaborating with me on DEWS to integrate satellite data. — Jan 11th, 2018
Here’s me presenting to the students and staff at University of Moratuwa, the premier technical university in Sri Lanka, on invitation by the Computer Science Head of the Department Dr. Shehan Perera. There are many undergraduates interested in working on solutions to the Dengue problem, and I made them aware of the freely available satellite data. — Jan 4th, 2018
Here is me talking to students at University of Jaffna on invitation by Computer Engineering Head of Department Dr. Anantharajah Kaneswaran. This region was affected by the civil war in recent times, and the students and staff were very keen on working on research projects such as DEWS that can make a positive impact in the lives of local people. — Jan 8th, 2018
Meeting with local epidemiologists to educate them about the techniques they can leverage on combatting the dengue epidemic at the ground level. From left to right: Public Health Inspector Mr. Wijayaweera, me, Dr. Sadaruwan Hettiarachchi, Dr. Nilantha, and Dr. Thakshila Yapa.— Jan 12th, 2018
Here’s me on the stage (sitting on the right in blue shirt), before addressing the local health professionals. — Jan 12th, 2018
Public Health Inspectors (Green uniforms), nurses, medical doctors, and other professionals during my talk on how we can use freely available resources from space technology along with other prevention methods to combat dengue problem efficiently. — Jan 12th, 2018
Local dengue prevention and management crew in “Let’s prevent Dengue” shirts. — Jan 12th, 2018
This is how the local Ministry of Health offices collect and visualize the data gathered. They display markers on a map to show incidences of dengue in their local jurisdictions. — Jan 12th, 2018
As you can see, the local Public Health Inspectors use a hand colored map to show awareness of high risk dengue areas. I explained them the importance of having these in digital formats, augmented with GIS data, so that the pertinent information can be disseminated between the relevant institutes efficiently and effectively to prevent the outbreak. These organizations actually lack the financial capability to afford commercial software to make these processes streamlined. Although there are comparable open source software packages that can be utilized, it is my belief that those have to be tweaked a little bit to satisfy local needs, and made available in the local languages — Sinhala and Tamil. — Jan 12th, 2018
Public Awareness Board at MOH — Panadura. — 12th Jan 2018.

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