As the fight against COVID-19 continues across the world, the critical role that contact tracing must play, has become strikingly evident.

In Iraq, a country under lockdown, steps have been taken to slow transmission by limiting travel, quarantining citizens and cancelling large gatherings. But this week in Karbala, a new innovative and collaborative platform has launched - could it be the key to stopping the pandemic in its tracks?

“The Karbala ‘Spatial Data Infrastructure’ (SDI) system will provide decision makers with situational analysis tools and an operational dashboard that will enable a complete analysis of new cases and recovery, helping them to make faster decisions and respond with the appropriate measures. It displays data geographically to give a complete picture of the situation on the ground,” explains Ahmed Mamour, Senior. Engineer from Karbala Governorate’s GIS team. “Information will be available through the web platform and phone application, enabling easy access for the Karbala Crisis Cell, researchers and academics and the general public.”

Initially conceived in 2016, the Karbala SDI system was intended to create data harmony, engaging NGOs, UN Agencies, Government and the Private Sector to aggregate existing data sets available for geographic and demographic information, standardize and unify them – to increase accuracy, encourage cooperation, and simplify access.


“The system works in a way that provides an integrated infrastructure for the exchange of geographical and spatial information between entities across various sectors, enabling the government to build clear development strategies through high-quality and accurate data. This data is necessary for the government’s planning, analysis and follow-up processes, using a decision-making approach that can help to develop more sound policies,” says Mahab Madani, Head of Governance and Economic Diversification Pillars for UNDP Iraq.

UNDP has worked with Karbala Governorate over the past four years to obtain and unify data on community infrastructure and facilities, services and projects, as well as health and demographic data, for use in daily planning and operations by the relevant line ministries and departments.

“The GIS system helps the government to better invest resources, improve plans and raise the quality of services, as well as help the government sector and the private sector to generate more precise and informed development plans,” confirms Senior Engineer Ahmed.

“What’s more, the GIS infrastructure provides a communications functionality through the Smart Karbala Application, enabling the voice of citizens to be heard and considered when decisions are being made. Karbala citizens can record audio and photos and upload it with geo-tagging, so that government can hear their concerns,” added, Ali Kamouna, Head of UNDP office in Karbala.



Following the spread of COVID-19 the Karbala GIS project moved quickly to adapt their platform to provide vital data on the location and status of each case in Karbala Governorate. “The team added two functionalities to the platform, one of them is an application for mobile devices to monitor and record all COVID-19 cases, with hospitals and clinics able to send data in real time to a central database, and the other functionality is a web interface that reflects the most important analysis of the cases, segregated by age, gender, and with the ability to show its progression,” describes Ali. “It has become possible for the decision maker to take advantage of real time information, to study the COVID-19 spread and then provide the necessary precautionary measures, such as prioritizing locations for random surveying to determine if transmission has taken place,” he adds.

Ultimately, it is hoped that this platform will support Karbala to join a global network of ‘Smart Cities’, providing a package of advanced digital services that facilitate improved daily life for Karbala Citizens.

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