Programme Director, the DSI Director General, Dr Phil Mjwara

 

His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa;

Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla;

CSIR Board Chairperson, Prof Thokozani Majozi;

Vodacom CEO, Mohamed Shameel Joosub

Acting SITA CEO, Mr Ntutule Tshenye

Advisors present;

Distinguished Team of Scientists and technicians, present;

DOH and our partner institutions;

Ladies and gentlemen;

South Africans

 

It gives me a great pleasure to welcome his Excellency, President Ramaphosa to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (the CSIR); one of the entities that reports to the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation (MHESI). 

 

President, I am indeed delighted that you have joined us today, as the Chief Commander of our country and the Chairperson of the National Command Council (NCC), a structure you established for government to work in unison in response to the COVID-19 epidemic.

 

On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan City, China. ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2’ (SARS-CoV-2) was confirmed as the causative agent of what we now know as ‘Coronavirus Disease 2019’ (COVID-19).

 

Since then, the virus has spread to more than 100 countries, including South Africa.

 

On 23 March 2020, President, you announced measures to combat the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus in our country – a three-week nationwide lockdown with severe restrictions on travel and movement, supported by the South African National Defence Force – from midnight on Thursday, 26 March, to midnight on Thursday, 16 April.

 

In your numerous addresses to our nation and government, you  as said more needed to be done to avoid “an enormous catastrophe” among the population.

 

You said so President because the disease is spreading rapidly in many countries around the world with more than 1 485 545 people infected worldwide and over 87 000 people having lost their lives.

 
The health systems of many countries, including hospitals and clinics, are under tremendous stress as they deal with the pandemic.

 

Your Excellency, in heeding to your call to develop measures to contain the spread of the epidemic, the Minister of Health approached the Ministry of HESI very early when the first cases of COVID-10 were reported in South Africa to assist with developing a system that could be used to assist in managing the spread of the Corona Virus; a request that was welcomed by the CSIR for a number of reasons which I will highlight below (Thanks to the CEO and the Board Chair of the CSIR).  

 

The CSIR had been working with the National Department of Health on a pilot to assist in the implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI).

 

 On behalf of the National Department of Health, the CSIR has developed a national database of patients using healthcare facilities across the country, the Health Patient Registration System (HPRS).

 

The HPRS is deployed in more than 3000 health facilities across the country, allowing for these facilities to register patients onto a central, national database. To date, the system has captured in excess of 44 million patient registrations. 

 

The HPRS allows for real-time monitoring of the number of patients each health facility is serving, thereby allowing for evidence-based resource planning of healthcare delivery. In addition, the HPRS issues each patient a unique identifier, thereby acting as the National Master Patient Index. This number serves to identify and track patients across the fragmented health information systems countrywide.

 

Secondly the CSIR has also been developing a situational awareness system based on radar detection to assist with the poaching of Rhinos at the National Kruger park. (on a lighter note, The President is welcomed to return to the CSIR to see this particular platform if he happens to be around the campus).

 

This expertise made it relatively easy for the CSIR to re purpose both these initiatives to develop the platform that we will be demonstrating today. 

 

Whilst the platform is useful as a dashboard that will assist decision makers to make informed decision, I would like to remind all of us that behind this platform is a set of competencies that include but not limited to; epidemiological modeling, data analytics; high performance computing; data visualization which are important investments that the DSI has been investing in over a number of years and continues to make investments to ensure we have an innovation enabled developmental state.

 

The wisdom of including innovation in the portfolio of science (thanks to you, your Excellency) means that we can become a capable state that is enabled by innovation to strengthen the work of government in service delivery, improving competitiveness and improving the well-being of South Africans.

 

With these few words I would like to welcome your Excellency and all the dignitaries present here today and wish to express my sincere gratitude to the NDoH for the partnership.

 

I thank you