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Collaboration with University of the Witwatersrand to tackle COVID-19 in Africa and future disease outbreaks

Collaboration with University of the Witwatersrand to tackle COVID-19 in Africa and future disease outbreaks


Published on January 26, 2021

York University and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa are building on a successful collaboration to tackle COVID-19 across Africa by creating an international consortium of experts in disease modelling and artificial intelligence. York President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton and University of the Witwatersrand Vice-Chancellor and Principal Zeblon Vilakazi will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in a virtual ceremony on Wednesday, Jan. 27 starting at 8:30 am ET.

The MOU enables collaborative activities such as exchanges of undergraduate students, mobilizing faculty and researchers and cooperating on research and future joint project development.

The collaborators will continue their work through the Africa-Canada Artificial Intelligence and Public Health Data Modelling Consortium and the project, Predictive modeling and forecasting of the transmission of COVID-19 in Africa using Artificial Intelligence. The project, led by York University Assistant Professor Jude Kong of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Faculty of Science, a member of the National COVID-19 Modelling Rapid Response Task Force, received more than $1.2 million from the International Development and Research Centre (IDRC).

The project - Predictive Modelling and Forecasting of the Transmission of COVID-19 in Africa using AI - is one of nine selected for funding by the Global South AI4COVID Response Program of IDRC. The Dahdaleh Institute Director, Dr. James Orbinski, is a Principal Investigator of the international collaboration of more than 50 researchers from academic and government institutions that also includes Aria Ilyad Ahmad, Global Health Foresighting Fellow here at the Dahdaleh Institute. The interdisciplinary project will leverage insights from data sciences, disease modelling and global health to design practical tools, and locally relevant public health interventions that address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on marginalized populations. The research team will also target the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 prevention and treatment, working alongside municipal and national health authorities and policy-makers to develop community-based messaging and risk communication strategies.  

The earlier project led to formation of the Africa-Canada Artificial Intelligence and Public Health Data Modelling Consortium, co-chaired by Distinguished Research Professor and Canada Research Chair Jianhong Wu of the Faculty of Science who leads the National COVID-19 Modeling Rapid Response Task Force, and Professor Bruce Mellado of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University), a senior researcher of iThemba LABS and director of the Institute for Collider Particle Physics.

The virtual signing event was held on Wednesday, January 27 at 8:30am to 9:30am EST. You can watch the event being live streamed on YouTube.


Global Health & Humanitarianism



Related Work





James Orbinski, Director Active
Jude Kong, Faculty Fellow, Faculty of Science Active
Aria Ilyad Ahmad, Research Fellow, Global Health Foresighting Alum

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