Saving Lives: A health informatics project on COVID-19 from ASIST South Asia Chapter

Saving Lives: A Health Informatics Project on COVID-19 from the ASIST South Asia Chapter

Bhakti Gala

The South Asia region suffered a brutal and devastating second wave of COVID-19. Many countries within the South Asia region comprising of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka are still reeling under various levels of lockdowns. We are witnessing the resurgence of COVID-19 in many parts of the South Asia region due to the Delta variant. Amidst this global fight against the pandemic, misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and the virus itself has resulted in creating a vaccine hesitancy among the masses. The South Asia Chapter of ASIS&T (Association for Information Science and Technology, USA) as part of the Special Chapter Project Fund was granted the funds of $7,000 for the year 2021-22 for the project “Dealing with COVID-19 and saving people’s lives in South Asia (SA) areas & beyond—A health informatics promotion project.” As part of the project goals, the Chapter in its first quarter of the project period has set up a YouTube channel to host multilingual videos for disseminating awareness on a variety of topics on COVID-19 in the South Asia region. The chapter proposed to collaborate with the Asia Pacific and European chapters for learning from their experiences in dealing with similar viruses in the past. Through these videos, the project team proposes to help in fighting misinformation and disinformation regarding COVID-19 information by citing accurate and reliable sources of information.

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The major goals of this health informatics project are aimed at spreading awareness about COVID-19 issues and behavior; learning from the experiences of countries who have dealt with similar viruses; creating awareness by identifying pertinent topics to deal with COVID-19; highlighting the importance of reliable and accurate information; identifying and sharing accurate and reliable information from authoritative information sources to fight misinformation and disinformation regarding COVID-19 and expanding the reach of these health informational videos to people of different linguistic abilities.

These videos have been prepared to reach out to the masses in the South Asia region that are highly impacted by COVID-19. The overall objective of creating awareness about various aspects of COVID-19 is to help in content creation which can act as myth busters. A total of ten videos on a wide range of topics related to COVID-19, such as “Myths about COVID-19 vaccines”; “Stay safe from COVID-19 without or before vaccination”; “Vaccine Facts: All you need to know about them”; and “Myths about COVID-19,” among others, will be added. Of these, four videos with their translated versions have already been uploaded on the channel. Topics have been identified to capture the experiences of countries in the Asia Pacific region which was able to deal with COVID-19 successfully. Each video script has been prepared using reliable and accurate sources of information such as the WHO (World Health Organization) website, CDC website, newspaper articles, and by referring to peer-reviewed journal articles. As these videos are aimed to be viewed by the common masses, the content has been simplified for better understanding.

To widen our reach to people who might not know English, the participating members of the project representing four South Asian countries of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka identified key languages in their respective countries and translated the video content in these languages. Only one major language from each country was selected for translation, and  the translation was done by the project members. Thus, videos are available in four South Asian languages: Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, and Sinhala, in addition to English.

To ensure that the content of these videos reaches the most people, an extensive list of promotional avenues have been identified both in the offline and online modes. Marketing of these videos has begun through the ASIS&T South Asia Chapter’s social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, listservs like ASIS&T’s iConnect, and the South Asia Chapter blog. Seminars and workshops are being planned for each of the participating countries to spread awareness by promoting these videos among those who do not have access to the internet, especially in rural areas.

Witnessing their family members infected with the virus or losing loved ones, children of all age groups have been the most affected emotionally. To capture these experiences of children during COVID-19, ASIS&T South Asia chapter has collaborated with The University of Hong Kong, Academy 22 Education for All Company Limited (NPO), and the ASIS&T Africa chapter to organize a series of workshops on digital storytelling which will culminate in a creative writing competition for both primary and secondary school children  in the South Asia region.

We seek your support in sharing these videos with your friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. We invite everyone to share their opinions, comments, and feedback for these videos on our channel. We will be posting regular updates about the progress of the project through the ASIS&T South Asia website, Facebook page, and Twitter account. Please subscribe to the ASIS&T South Asia YouTube channel and help us in sharing accurate information to fight the pandemic.

The project team has members from five countries representing both Asia Pacific and South Asia regions.  The project is being led by Bhakti Gala, Chair, ASIS&T South Asia (Central University of Gujarat, India) with a team of ASIS&T members including Sam Chu (The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong), Md. Anwarul Islam (University of Dhaka, Bangladesh), Syeda Hina Batool (University of the Punjab, Pakistan), Helen Chan (The University of Hong Kong), Raj Kumar Bhardwaj (Central University of Punjab, India), Manika Lamba (University of Delhi, India) and Prasadi Kanchana Jayasekara (University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka).

Cite this article as: bhaktigala, “Saving Lives: A health informatics project on COVID-19 from ASIST South Asia Chapter,” in Information Matters, October 6, 2021, https://informationmatters.org/2021/10/saving-lives-a-health-informatics-project-on-covid-19-from-asist-south-asia-chapter/.

Author

  • Dr. Bhakti Gala is an Assistant Professor at the School of Library and Information Science, Central University of Gujarat, India, and is the current chair (2020-21) of ASIS&T South Asia chapter. She is the winner of the 2014 ASIS&T International Paper Contest held by ASIS&T SIG III and a 2014 Mortenson Associate. She has previously worked as a consultant for an international research project funded by OCLC and ALISE. She is currently leading a Health Informatics project funded by ASIS&T, USA. Her research interests include information literacy, public libraries, metadata, and digital archives & libraries. She has published her research in international journals like Library Quarterly, Library and Information Science Research, Information Processing and Management, First Monday and DESIDOC Journal of Library and Information Technology.

Bhakti Gala

Dr. Bhakti Gala is an Assistant Professor at the School of Library and Information Science, Central University of Gujarat, India, and is the current chair (2020-21) of ASIS&T South Asia chapter. She is the winner of the 2014 ASIS&T International Paper Contest held by ASIS&T SIG III and a 2014 Mortenson Associate. She has previously worked as a consultant for an international research project funded by OCLC and ALISE. She is currently leading a Health Informatics project funded by ASIS&T, USA. Her research interests include information literacy, public libraries, metadata, and digital archives & libraries. She has published her research in international journals like Library Quarterly, Library and Information Science Research, Information Processing and Management, First Monday and DESIDOC Journal of Library and Information Technology.

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