The use of mobile phone technologies to enhance rabies surveillance

Poor infrastructure in many developing nations has resulted in the increase in mobile phone networks and the rapid expansion of this technology in low- and middle-income countries. This rapid expansion, coupled with the versatility, portability and connectivity, as well as the geo-location features of some mobile phones, enables them to be used for disease surveillance. Mobile phone surveillance systems have been developed based on either smartphones or the simpler so-called ‘dumb phones’. There are various advantages and disadvantages associated with the use of either of the options, as described in the table below:


Advantages Disadvantages
Support custom-developed applications Costly
Accurate geo-referencing Fragile (especially touch screens)
Easier to use user-interface Requires more extensive training and skills for use
Fewer limitations on amount of information gathered

Dumb Phone

More robust build Clumsy interface
Simple interface (text based) Simplified user interface restricts content(character limits)
Cost effective

Unfortunately, mobile technologies still remain heavily reliant upon cellular networks. This thus limits their use to areas where cellular networks are available and are reliable enough to ensure that the data is transmitted accurately and on a timely basis. Mobile phone technologies have been built into various disease surveillance systems and facilitate the submission of data from grassroots level up to national surveillance databases rapidly. In so doing, this enables countries to monitor outbreaks and disease incidences in near real-time, making reporting, feedback and responses more rapid and effective.

Examples of ‘Dumb Phone’-based systems:

National dog bite and rabies surveillance using mobile phone technologies, Pakistan

Mtema et al. 2016 "Mobile Phones As Surveillance Tools: Implementing and Evaluating a Large-Scale Intersectoral Surveillance System for Rabies in Tanzania."

PDF - 366 kb
Mtema et al. 2016

Pascoe et al. 2012 “Collecting Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response Data through Mobile Phones”
ST-Africa 2012 Conference Proceedings.

PDF - 707.8 kb
Pascoe et al. 2012

Robertson et al. 2010 "Mobile Phone–based Infectious Disease Surveillance System, Sri Lanka."

PDF - 296.9 kb
Robertson et al. 2010

Examples of Smartphone rabies applications:

Gibson et al. 2015 "Vaccinate-assess-move method of mass canine rabies vaccination utilising mobile technology data collection in Ranchi, India."

PDF - 673.2 kb
Gibson et al. 2015

You can find more information on the Rabies App here:

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