Smartphone technology is just one aspect of the service. Data is sent from the field to the secure cloud-based server, where a data team works with health ministry staff to clean, analyse and approve the data, much faster than previous paper-based surveys. The service also provides epidemiological support to countries to develop their surveys, and a globally standardised training system.
With the evidence generated by the Tropical Data project, ministries of health are able to pinpoint exactly where to run trachoma treatment programmes and offer life-changing support. It also highlights where treatment programmes are no longer needed because interventions have been a success. Crucially, this helps countries gather evidence for the World Health Organization to show where they are free from the disease, so trachoma elimination can be declared.
Tropical Data is run by a consortium of partners including the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, RTI International and Sightsavers. It is made possible thanks to the support of governments in endemic countries, plus UK aid, USAID and The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust.