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The Rockefeller Foundation will award three new grants to support organisations that are working with countries, communities, and regions in Africa and Asia to leverage data and technology to bolster their COVID-19 response.

A portion of the grants is earmarked for off-grid technologies that can quickly address the energy needs of healthcare facilities currently operating without electricity.

In a company statement, the Foundation said it is awarding grants totaling $3 million to four organisations: Dalberg, Dimagi, Medic Mobile, and Odyssey Energy Solutions.

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These new grants build on the Foundation’s efforts to improve public health and provide reliable electricity to vulnerable communities worldwide and bring its total commitment to the global COVID-19 response to over $50 million.

The Foundation highlighted that these grants will enhance data collection through contact tracing, symptom checking, and testing that can generate data that is crucial for ensuring efficient Covid-19 responses across the community, country, and regional levels.

“When I was leading the US response to the 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, using transparent, location-specific, real-time data was a game-changing innovation,” said Dr Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “Employing a data-driven response to outbreaks is critical to target prevention and response efforts much more precisely and return to normal more quickly.”

With more than five million cases globally, countries have turned to technology at all levels of their health systems to respond to COVID-19. Yet many lower- and middle-income countries do not have the same resources as wealthier countries to develop innovations that meet their unique needs and could aid their responses. As a result, those countries with the fewest resources to combat a COVID-19 outbreak are often the least well-positioned to leverage data and technology to drive efficient responses.

“We are partnering with countries and local communities to equip them with the technologies and tools that will help to protect their health and save their economies,” said Ashvin Dayal, Senior Vice President, Power Initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation. “Reliable electricity is essential for effective testing and treatment, and off-grid technologies can be rapidly deployed to address this crisis.”

The Foundation’s new grants include:

  • Dalberg has received a grant to strengthen the Incident Management System (IMS) capacity of West African Emergency Operations Centers to prepare for, detect, and respond to public health emergencies. The foundation’s grant will support work in six West African countries: Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, and Mauritania. “Emergency Operations Centers help countries and communities come together in a way that saves lives and allows economies to get back on their feet more quickly after disasters have passed,” said Madjiguene Sock, Partner at Dalberg. “This grant will allow us to bolster the effectiveness of the Emergency Operations Centers we have supported for more than seven years, as well as establish a platform for collaboration and knowledge sharing between centres across West Africa.”
  • Dimagi and Medic Mobile have received funding to equip community health workers with new digital tools that can bolster a data-driven response to Covid-19 in up to 50 countries. Dimagi and Medic Mobile are the two largest developers of apps designed specifically for community health workers, reaching 700,000 community health workers across the globe. “Digital tools can make a real difference in fighting Covid-19, but only if they make it into the hands of health workers,” said Isaac Holeman, PhD, Co-Founder of Medic Mobile. “This collaboration is an opportunity for our organizations to share what we know, to leverage our respective strengths in order to deliver systems that are optimized for frontline workers in hard-to-reach communities.” Jonathan Jackson, Co-Founder and CEO of Dimagi added, “By creating and sharing these tools, we can help community health workers better respond to this devastating virus and optimize public health in the long-run. These tools will shape a future in which we can predict and respond to pandemics faster and more effectively.”
  • Odyssey Energy Solutions is receiving funding to develop its data platform, which will enable the fast and sustainable deployment of donor capital to energize healthcare facilities with distributed renewable energy technology. The Odyssey platform will align donor efforts, targeting efficient allocation of over $200 million across at least 2,000 health centres in sub-Saharan Africa.  “Over 70% of healthcare facilities lack access to reliable electricity in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Odyssey CEO Emily McAteer. “By integrating key datasets with the location of priority health facilities, matching them with developers, supporting the bulk procurement of mini-grid components, and utilizing asset management technologies to track performance, this project will help address the energy needs of healthcare facilities immediately and reliably.” Dana Rysankova, Global Lead for Energy Access at the World Bank noted: “The Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) is supporting World Bank client countries in their efforts to electrify health facilities to help mitigate the Covid-19 health crisis. Odyssey can be a very powerful tool in this effort. In Nigeria, for example, the Rural Electrification Agency and the World Bank are partnering with the Odyssey platform for a significant COVID response effort to electrify isolation and treatment centres and primary healthcare facilities, many of which are subsequently expected to be expanded into mini-grids that also serve neighbouring communities and businesses.”

The new grants are part of the Foundation’s overall response to the global pandemic, as described in Dr. Shah’s 2020 Annual letter. To read the letter in its entirety, visit: https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/2020-annual-letter/.