Data is high priority for fighting COVID-19 in Namibia

September 22, 2020

Under the leadership of the Government of Namibia, GRID3 has launched another COVID-19 data hub in sub-Saharan Africa, expanding access to much needed reliable and timely geospatial data to fight and prevent the global pandemic on the continent. 

“This is a step in the best direction,” said Tulimegameno Amutenya, Manager of Data Processing at Namibia’s National Statistics Agency (NSA), during an interview for Namibia’s television channel NBC1. While being clear about her high expectations for the interactive COVID-19 data hub, she was also quick to point out that the success of the platform will depend on the work of many: “It requires a lot of effort from the local stakeholders, key stakeholders that are producing data.”

What the statistician presented on national TV is the newest development in the country’s efforts to curb and prevent the COVID-19 pandemic and keep people in Namibia safe. The NSA, together with Namibia’s Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS), GRID3, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri) and Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD), launched an interactive COVID-19 data hub to generate and display timely, accurate population and infrastructure data that supports the country’s response and prevention measures. The hub also visualises health risks such as diabetes and heart disease by region, comparative COVID-19 risk, and general demographics.

To ensure the crucial geospatial data is not only available to experts and data users, but to everyone in Namibia, the interactive online repository is openly available  for everyone to monitor changes almost in real time. 

The demand for quality statistics on the economy and social wellbeing of people in the country is high and the NSA reacted swiftly to the demand: “When the Government of Namibia through the Head of State, His Excellency Dr. Hage Geingob first called for a lockdown early this year due to COVID-19, future economic hardships and challenges were clearly inevitable. The question was more on how we as a country could monitor its outcomes and all other social challenges it would bring. There were calls from the public for a one stop shop that allows for the monitoring of effects of COVID-19. Well, here we are,” says Statistician General of the NSA, Mr. Alex Shimuafeni. 

Statistics on COVID-19 case numbers, recoveries, and death toll on the hub are complemented by data on health risks that can make COVID-19 particularly dangerous. The location of people suffering from ailments like diabetes, heart conditions, respiratory illnesses, or cancer are comprehensively mapped and can be analysed and combined with other exacerbating characteristics like population density and access to information and communications technology. This allows the user to obtain a thorough overview of health risks in the country.

“The level of professionalism, expertise and open-mindedness towards new approaches displayed by the Namibian Government, NSA, and MoHSS made it possible to carry out this important endeavor. Together with our partners at Esri, GPSDD, and UNECA, it is our goal to facilitate data-based solutions that can alleviate the pandemic and contribute to strengthening health systems in the medium and long term,” adds Justine Dowden, GRID3’s country lead for Namibia. 

The release of the COVID-19 hub marks the first major output of the strategic partnership between the Government of Namibia and GRID3 and the most recent addition to GRID3’s ever-increasing digital visualisation suite, which highlights COVID-19 incidence, prevalence, and other key geospatial data in numerous sub-Saharan African countries. All sides are now looking to strengthen the partnership and accelerate efforts that would ensure the steady availability of up-to-date data for the country’s government and population.

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