Boma COVID-19 Summit

Live Blog — Session 9: Portugal / Kenya

Empowering People with Technology

How to make your own change

  • Monitoring epidemics through crowdsourcing and mobile devices (in Brazilian Portuguese)
    Onicio Leal Neto, CEO, Epitrack, Zurich, Switzerland

  • The war we didn't prepare for
    Alex Lightman, CEO, Praxis Digital, Santa Monica, California, U.S.

  • 360º Health overview in the context of pandemics (in Brazilian Portuguese)
    Vera Cordeiro, founder, Associação Saúde Criança, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Sights and sounds from Silicon Savannah

  • Reshape the world as we know it
    Victoria Rubadiri, Journalist, Citizen TV Kenya

  • Bridging the digital divide to flatten the African curve
    Nivi Sharma, Chief Operating Officer, BRCK, Nairobi, Kenya

  • Twitter and WhatsApp accelerating info and misinfo on Covid-19
    Mark Kaigwa, founder, Nendo, Nairobi, Kenya

  • The intersection of culture, politics and women
    Muthoni Drummer Queen, Rapper, Nairobi, Kenya

Moderator: Marconi Pereira

Live from: Porto, Portugal
Start time: 4:00 p.m. EDT


4:15 pm.

Praxis Digital CEO Alex Lightman begins by comparing the reported numbers of infected with Covid-19 with what he believed to be the real numbers. He says that the real numbers of those infected with coronavirus are 3 to 5 million—in contrast to reports. Death rates for closed cases are 14 percent, in contrast to reported figures which are still at 7 percent, he says. He adds: “I believe that millions of people will die. This is the war we didn’t prepare for. You think I’m talking about covid-19. But I’m also talking about Covid-20. It’s a false premise that this is a once in a hundred-year pandemic.

He declares that the virus is a designed organism, not to say intentionally released, but studied and created for years by both the US and China. He says notices in a laboratory in Wuhan disclosed a virus which has its symptoms suppressed for weeks, and that a research paper on the virus has been around for 12 years.


4:25 pm.

Lightman speculates on conditions of price gouging or government actions which necessitate careful attention to documents and medical supplies. He demonstrates how to make a mask out of a folded paper towel and a substance called “Thieves oil,” which contains lemon peel, clove oil and rosemary. The name comes from use during the Bubonic Plague by thieves, who applied it to themselves before breaking into the homes of the infected deceased. He showes a number of other types of oils to help with fending off Covid-19 in the body, and recommends a running practice on an indoor track in order to best boost lung capacity (maximum oxygen uptake, or VO2 max).

Lightman: “Albuterol sulfate and a nebulizer mask is the poor man’s ventilator.”

He closes with the comment, “the viruses which two thirds of people have, which are absolutely necessary to get rid of to fight Covid-19, are herpes type 1 and cytomegalovirus.” These viruses constantly degrade the immune system, he says.


4:37 pm.

Epitrack CEO Onicio Leal Neto delivers a presentation in Portuguese on a participatory surveillance health platform. [Coverage here follows from graphs and slides with English captions].

In a participatory surveillance health platform, users self-report their symptoms, the data goes to a cloud, and algorithms track patterns about disease symptoms among users, letting decision makers know about risk areas and populations know about the health of their communities.

Rather than a top-down flow of information starting from the Ministry of Health, going to local health departments, then to clinics, and then to patients, a participatory health system takes in data from all these parties simultaneously.

Neto described the first deployment of such a participatory surveillance health platform. The platform was used during the FIFA world cup in 2014, and covered by researchers in a paper.


4:48 pm.

Speakers, along with the moderator, ran through the takeaways about their presentations related to the novel coronavirus.


4:49 pm.

Vera Cordeiro presents in Portuguese.


5:10 pm.

A panel on Kenya is dealing with Covid-19 launches with an introduction by Victoria Rubadiri, a journalist in Kenya. She asks how we can brace for the unknown and use technology to empower during this crisis.

Nivi Sharma, the COO of cloud-wifi company BRCK: “Flattening the curve isn’t as straightforward as the gifs make it looks like.” She mentions five important actions that do flatten the curve of Covid-19 cases: supporting preventative measures, healthcare workers on the front line, and economic and essential services; protecting responsible containment measures; and educating the population on immediately applicable, nonpharmaceutical interventions.

Sharma: “Not everyone has the privilege of digital access. The privilege of being perpetually and ubiquitously online.” She discusses the through the barriers to connectivity and digital access. Her company addresses these, she says, to reach Africans directly on their smartphones through many PSAs, which now are disseminating helpful Covid-19 suggestions such as alternatives to shaking hand, etc.

Sharma: “In order to really drive the behavioral stage, we need to go a step further. We need to explain why these measures are important to saving millions of lives. The traditional patriarchal approach will not work.


5: 18 pm.

Mark Kaigwa, founder of Nendo, discussed the term Silicon Savannah. He said that over the last decade since 2010, Kenya delivered tech solutions that helped millions of people congregate and visualize data, in crises such as the Haiti earthquake. While Venmo and Apple Pay have broad recognition, the roots of these apps lie in Kenyan projects, he explained. He said that CNN is respected across the world as a global media network, and that its executives once flew to meet with a Kenyan leader personally to issue an apology about some objectionable coverage. Such is the recent power of the Kenyans on the world stage.

Kaigwa discusses other incidents illustrative of the news situation in Kenya. The director of criminal investigations in Kenya went to Nairobi to arrest someone who spread misinformation about the coronavirus recently. Kaigwa discusses the problems with attacking false news and says: “The key battleground is WhatsApp.” He adds: “I am excited to see a South African company take the lead” in reference to a company which got the WHO to deploy WhatsApp to help with Covid-19 awareness.


Nairobi-based rapper Muthoni Drummer Queen speaks about creativity in uncertain time. She mentions all the networks of services involved in the touring industry for musicians, and how they are all being upended. She stresses not to panic, and to remember that the life of an artist is always treading uncertain waters, and that herein are the true seeds of innovation.

Muthoni Drummer Queen: “Instead of thinking I am a singer, think ‘I have the skill of singing. Can I trade the skill of singing for an immediate need?’”


5:26 pm.

People default to radio, tv, rumors, what the church says, when they don’t have the internet, Muthoni Drummer Queen says.

Citizen TV Kenya journalist and moderator Rubadiri asks the panel about an infodemic.

Kaigwa says they developed a false news quiz, and adds: “You would be surprised the amount of myths and suggestions about home remedies that are there, purely related to health specifically. It is an infodemic in that you have people saying, we have testing kits. That is inaccurate. You have people talking about a vaccine, while meanwhile clinical researchers say we take years to get to that.” Yet there is a hunger for more information. This appetite can be weaponized against us, he says.

Rubadiri asks about artists can buffer against something like Covid-19.

Muthoni Drummer Queen discusses the ways in which a better understanding of money can help artists. Principles of borrowing, and other money principles, are associated with investors yet critically determine the success of artists. She recalls how in Kenya there are no social protections, so everyone is swimming in the sea of uncertainty all the time, not just artists. “In a way our gills were made for breathing in these uncertain times. Now that the powerhouses are crumbling, it is time we really utilize our skillset.”

Rubadiri asks the panel about a current partnership with Google to increase 4G connectivity in Africa. Sharma muses about how these efforts to expand digital access play out on the ground with cell tower construction, and stresses the need for creative thinking in regard to spectrum allocation.


5:34 pm.

Rubadiri says: “We are in a very unique time in terms of trying to get ahead of the pandemic. How can we monitor and regulate the space without taking advantage of peoples’ privacy?” She mentions a problem last year in Kenya with the Hudama Bill 2019, a program with vaunted similarities to the US Census or Social Security.

Kaigwa mentions how workers [in California] are being given a smart ring that takes their temperature. He muses on the contradictory attitudes towards digital privacy in Kenya, in which people are content to give away their personal information for mobile money loans yet decry other privacy intrusions. He says that he agrees with the writer Seth Godin’s perspective, which is that what people really want in terms of privacy is to “not be surprised.”

Sharma says these mobile money loans are rampant and rapacious in Kenya.


5:44 pm.

Rubadiri mentions how, despite the government directive to stay home in Kenya, people were still going to church. She asks Muthoni Drummer Queen about this lack of trust in media and government.

Muthoni Drummer Queen says: “This trust can be regained by not bullshitting. The government gave a really clear directive. No public gatherings.” She continues: “Our president said ‘there’s going to be internet so people can learn.’ Okay. Whatever. What we need is an assurance there will be water. Or, ‘Jack Ma gave 20,000 testing kits.’ We need mass testing! I am frustrated with these comparisons with the West: ‘even America struggles with mass testing.’ I don’t care. When things hit the fan, it is going to be a completely different ballgame than in Spain or in America. We don’t have the same social protections.” She says “The internet has come through to me at this time with voices I can trust, doctors and scientists.”

Rubadiri praises music therapy. The panel closes with a number of songs sung by Muthoni Drummer Queen over Zoom. One of them, Muthoni Drummer Queen explains, is about female friendship and building something together.


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