Smartphones and algorithms to prevent disease in Lahore

In 2012, the city of Lahore, Pakistan, found an innovative solution to prevent outbreaks of dengue fever, a mosquito-transmitted disease. Researchers working for the Pakistani government developed an early epidemic detection system for their region that looked for signs of a serious outbreak. The data was collected by government employees, who were given smart phones to track the location and timing of confirmed dengue cases. When the system’s algorithms spotted an impending outbreak, government employees would then go to the region to clear mosquito breeding grounds and kill larvae. The data was plotted on a publicly-available map, so that predictions could be made on the next likely locations of mosquitos. In 2011, the mosquito-transmitted disease had infected some 16,000 people and took 352 lives. After the new system was put in place in 2012, there were only 234 confirmed infections and no deaths.