Feasibility of using a mobile app to monitor and report COVID-19 symptoms and movement of people in Uganda

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PLoS One. November 19, 2021; 16 (11): e0260269. doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0260269. Electronic collection 2021.


BACKGROUND: The feasibility of mobile applications to monitor disease has not been well documented, particularly in developing countries. We have developed and investigated the feasibility of using a mobile application to collect daily data on COVID-19 symptoms and movements of people.

METHODS: We used open source software “KoBo Toolbox” to develop the application and installed it on smart mobile phones at low cost. We have named this app “Wetaase” (“protect yourself”). The app was tested on 30 selected households in 3 densely populated areas of Kampala, Uganda, and followed them for 3 months. One household trained member captured the data in the app for each registered member and uploaded it daily to a virtual server. The app is integrated with an algorithm that flags participants who report fever and any other symptoms related to COVID-19.

RESULTS: A total of 101 participants were registered; 61% women; median age 23 (interquartile range (IQR): 17-36) years. Application usage was 78% (95% confidence interval (CI): 77.0% -78.8%). It went from 40% on day 1 to a peak of 81% on day 45, then decreased to 59% on day 90. Application use did not vary significantly by site, gender or age. Only 57/6617 (0.86%) records included a report of at least one of the 17 listed COVID-19 symptoms. The most reported symptom was flu / runny nose (21%), followed by sneezing (15%), the remainder varying between 2% and 7%. Reports of trips out of their homes were 45%, of which 74% went to markets or stores. Participants liked the “Wetaase” app and recommended it as an alert system for COVID-19.

CONCLUSION: Use of the “Wetaase” application was high (78%) and it was similar across the three study sites, gender and age groups. The reporting of symptoms related to COVID-19 was low. Most of the trips were to markets and shops. Users reported that the app was easy to use and recommended that it be scaled. We recommend that this application be evaluated on a large scale for its feasibility, user-friendliness and acceptability as an additional tool to increase COVID-19 alerts in Uganda and similar environments.

IDPM: 34797878 | DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0260269

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