Environment fingerprinting via digital technology - a new paradigm in hazard forecasting and early-warning systems for health risks in Africa

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Chemistry


Unprecedented rate of urbanization constitutes substantial risks to the resilience of cities, with public health and welfare being the most critical concern. This includes the emergence of (non-)communicable disease epidemics due to environment contamination and lifestyle factors. To increase the sustainability of cities, there is a critical need for an early warning system (EWS) for public & environmental health diagnostics that operates on a large scale and in real time. Rapid urbanisation and the young, growing population of Africa are also linked with rapid digitisation and an unprecedented up-take of new technology. This presents a unique opportunity for the development of a digital technology-based, comprehensive and real time EWS that is attuned to public and environmental health risks in rapidly changing Africa. We propose to build a network aiming to develop a public & environmental health diagnostics and hazard forecasting platform in Africa via urban environment fingerprinting underpinned by digital innovation.

EDGE-I will develop a conceptual model (and a prototype in EDGE-II) of an environment fingerprinting platform for hazard forecasting and EWS using DIGITAL INNOVATION and state-of-the-art bioanalytical, socioeconomic, statistical & modelling tools. The digital innovation will be focused on the use of Internet of Things (IoT) enabled sensors and cloud computing as a plat-form for capturing, storing, processing, and presenting a wide range of environmental measures to a broad group of stakeholders.

EDGE will focus on two key thematic areas of critical importance to rapidly growing and urbanising Africa:
(1) Water, sanitation & public health: as a vector for infectious disease spread and environmental AMR.
(2) Urbanization & pollution: as a vector for environmental degradation and non-communicable disease.

EDGE postulates that the measurement of endo- and exogenous environment & human derived residues continuously and anonymously pooled by the receiving environment (sewage, rivers, soils and air), can provide near real-time dynamic information about the quantity and type of physical, biological or chemical stressor to which the surveyed system is exposed, and can profile the effects of this exposure. It can therefore provide anonymised, comprehensive and objective information on the health status of urban dwellers and surrounding environments in real time, as urban environment continuously pools anonymous urine, wastewater and runoff samples from thousands of urban dwellings.

EDGE-I will focus on building a concept of a prototype of EWS in two geographically and socioeconomically contrasting areas in Africa: Lagos (Nigeria), Cape Town (South Africa). The young and growing population of Africa that is rapidly up-taking digital innovation provides a unique opportunity for building a system underpinned by digital channels to provide long and lasting impacts. To achieve above EDGE-I will:
1 Develop a transdisciplinary and cross-sectoral network focussed on building EWS in Africa
2 Develop a conceptual model of an EWS in Afri-ca underpinned by digital innovation in techno-logical solutions and Citizen Science
3 Engage with stakeholders: from citizens, through government to digital tech industry
DGE-I will catalyse the development of a large-scale research programme (EDGE-II).

Planned Impact

Policy makers, government agencies, public services and non-governmental development organisations are direct beneficiaries of this research. This project will break new ground in supplementing the current body of knowledge with new digital technology driven approaches to identifying risks within communities of different socio-economic status and communicating these risks to the stakeholder groups. The close proximity of the various communities in the selected case studies presents an opportunity to investigate the utility of an EWS in different contexts enabling wide-ranging beneficiaries in the public sector: from engineers and health professionals to environment agencies and regulators. Our approach, in the longer term, could trigger legislative, procedural or policy changes on a national scale. We will engage with local and national governments in Nigeria and South Africa (e.g. EDGE-I Partners: Lagos State Government, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, Federal Ministry of Environment, Pollution Control & Environmental Health Department, City of Cape Town Municipality, Water & Waste Directorate, Water and Sanitation, Western Cape Provincial Government) to ensure informed development and future implementation of the project. Digital technology sector (represented here by EDGE-I Partners: TecLab, Amazon Web Services, bioIP and Mayden) will benefit from new ideas regarding development and implementation (in EDGE-II) of autonomous Internet of Things type platforms, sensor technology and novel applications of bioanalytical techniques. Local communities, especially the vulnerable communities of Cape Town and Lagos, will be the key direct beneficiaries. The benefit is two-fold. In short term, engagement with Lagos local-communities via Citizen Science (represented in EDGE-I Partner by EarthWatch) and communication of research outcomes will increase community-wide awareness of environment and public health related issues (NGO Partners in EDGE-I: Peculiar Grace Youth Empowerment Initiative and Centre for Human Development). In the longer term, the EWS will deliver real-time response to multi-hazards within the communities saving lives and significantly increasing security and quality of life. The project will be beneficial to society in general as it will contribute to the increase of security of water supply and better understanding of the drivers influencing communities' resilience to various man-made and natural hazards. Dissemination of the outcomes via appropriate channels (i.e. media, local leaders) will enhance public knowledge of key environment and public health priorities. Finally, this project will enhance and further consolidate expertise at the universities of Stellenbosch, Lagos and Bath. Through involvement of public sector organisations and the private sector, researchers working in this project will gain exposure to different working cultures, and an understanding of how to apply, manage and implement research outcomes across disciplines and sectors.



Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern (Principal Investigator)
Julian James Faraway (Co-Investigator)
Benjamin William Metcalfe (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4279-8930
Pedro Miguel Estrela (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0001-6956-1146
Foluso Oyedotun Agunbiade (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-6467-8561
Marthinus Johannes Booysen (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-2817-2069
Temitope Sogbanmu (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-8913-267X
Jakobus Andries Du Plessis (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0001-8093-6711
Ben Adams (Co-Investigator)
Chika Yinka-Banjo (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-0712-7413
Marelize Botes (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7625-2958
Gideon Wolfaardt (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-2816-490X
Edward James Feil (Co-Investigator)
MARY Idowu AKINYEMI (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-2146-9337
Theresa Smith (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7085-3864
Thomas Rodding Kjeldsen (Co-Investigator)
Mirella Di Lorenzo (Co-Investigator)
Temilola Oluwafunmilayo Oluseyi (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-5722-3403
Julie Barnett (Co-Investigator)
Nico Elema (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7566-3672
Danae Stanton Fraser (Co-Investigator)
Andrew Whitelaw (Co-Investigator)
Marlene De Witt (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9911-490X
Willem Petrus De Clercq (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9812-7311
Peter Wilson (Co-Investigator)
Tobias Muller Louw (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4166-0799


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