The role of digital surveillance during outbreaks: the Ghana experience from COVID‑19 response


  • Isaac Owusu Ghana Health Service, Headquarters
  • Gideon Kwarteng Acheampong Ghana Health Service, Headquarters
  • Ernest Akyereko Faculty of Geo‑Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands; Ghana Health Service, Headquarters
  • Nii Aryeetey Agyei Ghana Health Service, Headquarters
  • Mawufemor Ashong Ghana Health Service, Headquarters
  • Isaac Amofa Ghana Health Service, Headquarters
  • Rebecca Ann Mpangah Ghana Health Service, Headquarters
  • Ernest Kenu Ghana Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program, School of Public Health, University of Ghana
  • Richard Gyan Aboagye Department of Family and Community Health, Fred N. Binka School of Public Health, University of Health and Allied Sciences, Hohoe
  • Collins Adu College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland
  • Kingsley Agyemang Division of Global Public Health, Brunel University London
  • Anthony Nsiah-Asare Ghana Health Service, Headquarters
  • Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe Ghana Health Service, Headquarters



COVID-19, outbreak response, digital innovation, disease surveillance, digital surveillance


Over the years, Ghana has made notable strides in adopting digital approaches to address societal challenges and meet demands. While the health sector, particularly the disease surveillance structure, has embraced digitization to enhance case detection, reporting, analysis, and information dissemination, critical aspects remain to be addressed. Although the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) structure has experienced remarkable growth in digitization, certain areas require further attention as was observed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ghana during the COVID-19 pandemic, recognized the importance of leveraging digital technologies to bolster the public health response. To this end, Ghana implemented various digital surveillance tools to combat the pandemic. These included the “Surveillance Outbreak Response Management and Analysis System (SORMAS)”, the digitalized health declaration form, ArcGIS Survey123, Talkwalker, “Lightwave Health information Management System” (LHIMS), and the “District Health Information Management System (DHIMS)”. These digital systems significantly contributed to the country's success in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. One key area where digital systems have proved invaluable is in the timely production of daily COVID-19 situational updates. This task would have been arduous and delayed if reliant solely on paper-based forms, which hinder efficient reporting to other levels within the health system. By adopting these digital systems, Ghana has been able to overcome such challenges and provide up-to-date information for making informed public health decisions. This paper attempts to provide an extensive description of the digital systems currently employed to enhance Ghana's paper-based disease surveillance system in the context of its response to COVID-19. The article explores the strengths and challenges or limitations associated with these digital systems for responding to outbreaks, offering valuable lessons that can be learned from their implementation.

Download data is not yet available.


Spinelli A, Pellino G. COVID-19 pandemic: perspectives on an unfolding crisis. British Journal of Surgery. 2020;107(7):785-787. doi:10.1002/bjs.11627 DOI:

Maharana A, Amutorine M, Sengeh MD, Nsoesie EO. COVID-19 and beyond: Use of digital technology for pandemic response in Africa. Sci Afr. 2021;14. doi:10.1016/j.sciaf.2021.e01041 DOI:

Kenu E, Odikro MA, Malm KL, et al. Epidemiology of COVID-19 outbreak in Ghana, 2020. Ghana Med J. 2020;54:5-15. doi:10.4314/GMJ.V54I4S.3 DOI:

Sarkodie B, Asiedu-Bekoe F, Laryea DO, et al. Overview of preparedness and response to COVID-19 in Ghana. Ghana Med J. 2021;55:38-47. doi:10.4314/gmj.v55i2s.6 DOI:

Kim Y. Tracking bodies in question: telecom companies, mobile data, and surveillance platforms in South Korea’s epidemic governance. Inf Commun Soc. 2022;25: 1717-1734. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2021.1883704 DOI:

Dan-Nwafor C, Ochu CL, Elimian K, et al. Nigeria’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic: January to May 2020. J Glob Health. 2020;10. doi:10.7189/JOGH.10.020399 DOI:

Budd J, Miller BS, Manning EM, et al. Digital technologies in the public-health response to COVID-19. Nat Med. 2020;26: 1183-1192. doi:10.1038/s41591-020-1011-4 DOI:

Kostkova P, Saigí-Rubió F, Eguia H, et al. Data and Digital Solutions to Support Surveillance Strategies in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Front Digit Health. 2021;3. doi:10.3389/fdgth.2021.707902 DOI:

Rahman MS, Peeri NC, Shrestha N, et al. Defending against the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak: How can the Internet of Things (IoT) help to save the world? Health Policy Technol. 2020;9:136-138. doi:10.1016/j.hlpt.2020.04.005 DOI:

Ferretti L, Wymant C, Kendall M, et al. Quantifying SARS-CoV-2 transmission suggests epidemic control with digital contact tracing. Science (1979). 2020;368. doi:10.1126/science.abb6936 DOI:

Whitelaw S, Mamas MA, Topol E, et al. Applications of digital technology in COVID-19 pandemic planning and response. Lancet Digit Health. 2020;2:e435-e440. doi:10.1016/S2589-7500(20)30142-4 DOI:

Silenou BC, Tom-Aba D, Adeoye O, et al. Use of surveillance outbreak response management and analysis system for human monkeypox outbreak, Nigeria, 2017-2019. Emerg Infect Dis. 2020;26:345-349. doi:10.3201/eid2602.191139 DOI:

Tom-Aba D, Silenou BC, Doerrbecker J, et al. The surveillance outbreak response management and analysis system (SORMAS): Digital health global goods maturity assessment. JMIR Public Health Surveill. 2020;6. doi:10.2196/15860 DOI:

Louw C, Paffenholz R, Verset C, et al. Global Good Open Source Software Development in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic-Perspectives from SORMAS Implementation in Europe. In: Studies in Health Technology and Informatics. Vol 294. IOS Press BV; 2022:669-673. doi:10.3233/SHTI220553 DOI:

Moreno A, Fuentes-Lara C, Navarro C. COVID-19 communication management in Spain: Exploring the effect of information-seeking behavior and message reception in public’s evaluation. El Profesional de la Información. 2020;29. doi:10.3145/epi.2020.jul.02 DOI:

Bos VLLC, Jansen T, Klazinga NS, et al. Development and actionability of the dutch COVID-19 dashboard: Descriptive assessment and expert appraisal study. JMIR Public Health Surveill. 2021;7. doi:10.2196/31161 DOI:

Akyereko E, Nuamah HG, Acheampong GK, et al. Completeness of Health Declaration Reports during COVID-19 Pandemic in Ghana: Evidence from Travellers’ Surveillance Data, 2020. Int J Trop Dis Health. Published online April 30, 2022:35-43. doi:10.9734/ijtdh/2022/v43i830608 DOI:

Kawchuk G, Hartvigsen J, Harsted S, et al. Misinformation about spinal manipulation and boosting immunity: An analysis of Twitter activity during the COVID-19 crisis. Chiropr Man Therap. 2020;28. doi:10.1186/s12998-020-00319-4 DOI:

Lohiniva AL, Nurzhynska A, Hudi A hassan, et al. Infodemic Management Using Digital Information and Knowledge Cocreation to Address COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy: Case Study From Ghana. JMIR Infodemiology. 2022;2: e37134. doi:10.2196/37134 DOI:

Owusu AB, Afagbedzi SK, Bandoh DA, et al. Integration of multiple geospatial applications and intelligence for responding to COVID-19 in Ghana. Ghana Med J. 2021;55: 10-20. doi:10.4314/gmj.v55i2s.3 DOI:




How to Cite

Owusu, I., Kwarteng Acheampong, G., Akyereko, E., Aryeetey Agyei, N., Ashong, M., Amofa, I., Ann Mpangah, R., Kenu, E., Gyan Aboagye, R., Adu, C., Agyemang, K., Nsiah-Asare, A., & Asiedu-Bekoe, F. (2023). The role of digital surveillance during outbreaks: the Ghana experience from COVID‑19 response. Journal of Public Health in Africa, 14(10).



Public Health Pictures

Similar Articles

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.