The majority of Thailand’s rural population engages in backyard animal production without having sufficient knowledge of the dangerous risks posed by animal-borne diseases. The potentially devastating effects became evident during the avian flu pandemic of 2004, which claimed dozens of lives in Thailand and Vietnam. Following the outbreak, former veterinarian Dr. Lertrak Srikitjakarn reached out to a young entrepreneur – a co-founder of Opendream, Patipat Susumpow – to create an efficient animal-disease detection system for Thailand. Opendream aims to generate social progress for Thai communities through the use of modern communication technologies. Sharing similar visions about community empowerment and civic participation, the veterinarian and the communications expert cooperated to create an entirely Thai-built mobile app with the potential to revolutionize detection and early response mechanisms in order to contain zoonotic disease outbreaks in Thailand and beyond. The new app constitutes the technological backbone of a local pilot project entitled “Participatory One Health Disease Detection” (PODD), which started in 75 sub-districts of the Chiang Mai province. The design is simple and intuitive. In the event of suspicious cases of animal-disease outbreaks, trained village volunteers submit a photo through the PODD app. GPS automatically tags the photo location, and the app then guides the volunteers through a list of short questions relevant for the analysis. The whole process usually takes no longer than three minutes. All volunteer reports are immediately submitted to a central hub, the PODD Epicenter, where specialists immediately stage a coordinated response with the volunteers, affected villagers, and local authorities. This holistic, community-owned, and rapid-response-driven surveillance model has won international acclaim and is poised to be replicated at the national and international levels.
Thailand’s animal-disease detection app