Tropical Data

This large-scale project uses smartphone technology to gather data as part of the global fight to eliminate trachoma.

Tropical Data is a data-collection initiative that helps countries carry out surveys as they work towards eliminating trachoma.

It uses the same approach and technology as the Global Trachoma Mapping Project. More than 1,500 surveys in 41 countries have already taken place, and more than 5 million people across four continents have been examined.

Working in some of the most remote and difficult environments, the service helps countries to collect high-quality, standardised data, and there are plans to extend the service to support other neglected tropical diseases.

1.9 million
people around the world are affected by trachoma
5 million
people have been examined so far as part of Tropical Data
countries have taken part in the project to date
Eye health staff examine a child's eyes and record the results on a mobile phone.
Staff in Lokichogio, Kenya are trained how to examine people’s eyes and record the results. © Sightsavers.

How does the project work?

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.

The impact of trachoma

Sister Habiba Shemsu.

Sister Habiba’s story

Sister Habiba Shemsu, an eye care worker in south-west Ethiopia, often walks eight hours to reach her patients so she can treat them for trachoma. Read her story

Hilbret is sitting on a wooden chair outside. A health worker is leaning over her head, examining her eyes. She has a child sitting on her lap.

Hibret’s story

When Hibret was diagnosed with trachoma, she was devastated to learn she had passed the disease to her children. But Sightsavers helped her family to be treated. Read her story

Rahel Kasaw is sitting down outside with trees behind her. She is leaning on her hand and looking to the side. She is wearing a bright pink cardigan.

Rahel’s story

For five years, 18-year-old Rahel was in constant discomfort and fearful of bright light. After her trachoma operation, she is able to study again with her friends. Read her story

What are we doing to combat blinding diseases?

Sightsavers and trachoma

More about Tropical Data

A patient being examined for trachoma

Global Trachoma Mapping Project inspires tropical data initiative

The Global Trachoma Mapping Project has come to an end after seeing hundreds of surveyors collect and transmit data from 2.6 million people in 29 countries.

February 2017

WHO launches new Tropical Data initiative to build on GTMP success

The World Health Organization today launched its Tropical Data initiative to build on the successful Global Trachoma Mapping Project (GTMP).

July 2016
A close-up of mobile surgeon Boubacar Fomba checking his mobile phone.

Combatting trachoma with a mobile phone

Mobile phones are being used to help eliminate blinding trachoma in Mali. Take a look at our mHealth project in action.

August 2014