How the Cambodian CDC Prevents Outbreaks

with Innovative Digital Disease Detection Tools


Dr. Ly Sovann describes the challenges he faces and the change from paper-based reporting to early detection via digital methods.

A conversation with Dr. Ly Sovann, director of CDC Cambodia

I am Dr. Ly Sovann, director of the Communicable Disease Control Department (CDC Cambodia) of the Ministry of Health.


Dr. Ly Sovann spearheads the use of innovative digital disease detection tools at CDC Cambodia


CDC [Cambodia] is responsible for timely monitoring and responding to diseases that affect public health 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which means small scale disease outbreaks as a cluster, a pandemic, or even a global pandemic.

Recently, there have been Avian Influenza cases. Even for a single case, we have to act immediately to prevent both poultry and human casualties.
If the virus has time to keep spreading, it will mutate, and will pass from human to human, which will affect not just our country, but the world.

Most countries adopt a data reporting system, but most of them do this through paper-based reports, via fax, and other traditional means. So this data, takes a lot of time to analyse and detect issues.

InSTEDD iLab Southeast Asia introduced GeoChat to CDC Cambodia so that they’re able to send data from the grassroots to the top level to act early.
That’s why I initiated in 2003 to setup a hotline, which allows citizens to report cases. Institutions can have access [to the information], and the data is now reported digitally through SMS text messaging, online databases, and is analysed using computer systems.

InSTEDD has helped the MBDS (Mekong Basin Disease Surveillance) to completely change the way we collect and report critical health data. For example, one solution introduced by the iLab Southeast Asia was to send data from the grassroots to the top level using GeoChat.

For example in 2009, there were many cholera cases. Most medical doctors thought that tetracycline and doxycycline were drugs to treat cholera. But after our study, we found that there was a resistance, which means these drugs would not work. The effective drugs are others such as ampicillin and ciprofloxacin.

I used the GeoChat technology to send the information, and the practice nation-wide was changed in just one day.

It’s fast and it’s cheap and it works. If we had to hire couriers to spread the messaging, it would cost thousands of [US] dollars and it would take much longer, potentially risking many lives.

GeoChat therefore has been the most useful software introduced to me by the InSTEDD iLab [Southeast Asia].

Another piece of software for Contact List Searching, Early Warning Alert System, and an interactive voice response technology, have also proven as useful tools to me and my team.

Simply stated, the early detection technology tools have helped us tremendously. With InSTEDD’s support, our communication and response system are getting faster, much faster than ever before.

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