Background: Extensive public health gains have benefited high-income countries in recent decades, however, citizens of low and middle-income countries (LMIC) have largely not enjoyed the same advancements. This is in part due to the fact that public health data - the foundation for public health advances - are rarely collected in many LMIC. Injury data are particularly scarce in many low-resource settings, despite the huge associated burden of morbidity and mortality. Advances in freely-accessible and easy-to-use information and communication (ICT) technology may provide the impetus for increased public health data collection in settings with limited financial and personnel resources.
Methods and results: A pilot study was conducted at a hospital in Cape Town, South Africa to assess the utility and feasibility of using free (non-licensed), and easy-to-use Social Web and GeoWeb tools for injury surveillance in low-resource settings. Data entry, geocoding, data exploration, and data visualization were successfully conducted using these technologies, including Google Spreadsheet, Mapalist, BatchGeocode, and Google Earth.
Conclusion: This study examined the potential for Social Web and GeoWeb technologies to contribute to public health data collection and analysis in low-resource settings through an injury surveillance pilot study conducted in Cape Town, South Africa. The success of this study illustrates the great potential for these technologies to be leveraged for public health surveillance in resource-constrained environments, given their ease-of-use and low-cost, and the sharing and collaboration capabilities they afford. The possibilities and potential limitations of these technologies are discussed in relation to the study, and to the field of public health in general.