Exploring the Potential Benefits of Mobile Phone Service for Epidemiological Monitoring in Mali

Mali has one of the heaviest disease burdens in the world. Using cellphones to monitor outbreaks of disease in the country could help to ease that burden.

Monitoring public health to prevent and control disease depends on having timely, reliable data. In the case of malaria, for example, prompt identification is critical to eliminating the disease. In Mali, however, where malaria is the primary cause of disease and death, particularly of children under five, disease monitoring is still using autonomous radio communication (ARC) systems that make retrieving data slow and difficult.

This project will test the retrieval and processing of disease data in Mali using cellphones. It will investigate how mobile phone service can help improve disease monitoring in Mali by increasing the speed of retrieval, and improving reliability and completeness of the data. It will test the impact of the mobile system on monitoring performance and also demonstrate the feasibility of using open source tools and inexpensive equipment.

Data will be tested daily for reportable diseases and weekly for malaria through a comparative study of 22 health centres in the Kolokani health district that serve more than 200,000 people. Half of the district centres will receive mobile phone service and the other half will continue to use the ARC system.

Mali's National Department of Health (DNS) is collaborating on this project and is planning to convert to a mobile-based monitoring system. The research team will work closely with DNS' epidemiological surveillance and disease section. The DNS director is a co-investigator and will be responsible for advocating policy with decision-makers at the Ministry of Health.

Research will generate evidence and lessons at the district level that DNS intends to use to expand the system nationally. The project will also establish a reliable, up-to-date disease database for Kolokani health district and will increase the skills of students and research assistants in mobile-health practices.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Monday, December 12, 2011

End Date

Saturday, January 12, 2013


13 months

IDRC Officer

Larocque, Renee

Total funding

CA$ 68,928


North of Sahara, South of Sahara, Mali


Maternal and Child Health

Project Leader

Abdel Kader Traoré

Project Leader

Cheik Oumar Bagayoko


Réseau Informatique Malien d'Information et de Communication Médicale

Institution Country


Institution Website