In what is likely to be a major scientific breakthrough once formally certified, a former Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) student and a third-year student at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) have designed computer software they say can distinguish ordinary pneumonia from the one caused by Covid-19.
The two pioneers of the system say the software will give impetus to the fight against Covid-19 as it will help in diagnosis and management of people affected by the virus, which has infected over 92 million people across the world in the past year.
Zimbabwe has recorded 24 256 cases and 627 deaths.
Pardon Mukoyi (22), an ex-Computer Science student at GZU and Wisdom Murombo (23), a third-year student in Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at NUST, have developed a system known as Covid-19 Pneumonia Diagnostic System which also helps monitor pneumonia progression in those infected with coronavirus.
According to them, the system is able to interpret chest X-rays to diagnose Covid-19-induced pneumonia which they say is key in the early assessment stages.
The pair recently hogged the international limelight after coming second out of more than eight countries that participated in the 9th International Competition of Appropriate Technology (ICAT) that was held virtually last week because of Covid-19.
The system, also known as Covid-19 C-Ray Diagnostic System, is based on artificial intelligence and they successfully showcased it at ICAT.
They walked away with a second price of US$900 after beating other budding computer scientists from countries such as Russia.
Murombo yesterday appealed for assistance from Government to regularise their Covid-19 Induced Diagnostic System so that it can be used by local health institutions.
“We need Government support so that our system is accepted as a duly registered software that can be used in local health institutions,” said Murombo.
“Our hope is to closely work with the Ministry of Health and Child Care so that we can roll out our system which we hope will go a long way in stemming Covid-19 deaths through early diagnosis.”
He disclosed other systems that required funding to fine tune before they could be showcased, including the one for early diagnosis of breast cancer.
Plans were afoot to delve into lung cancer.
“We have been in touch with some officials in the Ministry of Health and Child Care with a view to have our system regularised and approved for use in local health institutions and we are still waiting for a response,” said Murombo.
The deputy director (Information and Surveillance) in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Mr Manes Munyanyi confirmed the duo had approached his office with their system.
Mr Munyanyi said they were interested in the innvovation by the two computer science experts and would invite them to make presentations on their invention.
“Yes its true I have been in touch with those guys (Murombo and Mukoyi) and we are keen to have them make a presentation on their system.
“We have not yet invited them to make the presentation. I just went through their documents and I have since forwarded communication to the Director of Informatics in the Ministry so that they can make the presentation,” said Mr Munyanyi.
“Hopefully in the near future, they will be able to make a presentation so that we can see how their system works or whether it needs further development to improve its efficacy but we are really interested in such innovation.”
Mr Munyanyi said his office welcomed innovations which extended even to other spheres of health adding that doors to his office were always open to such innovative individuals.
If the software is finally put to test and makes the mark, it will be a major breakthrough in the local innovation sphere while also giving hope in the fight against Covid-19.
Murombo said he was skilled in design and concept generation using AutoCAD, Solid Edge, Solidworks, Auto Desk Inventor and Python Programming Language.
As an Artificial Intelligence enthusiast, Murombo said he was passionate about incorporating machines with code (automation), use of machine learning, deep learning and convolutional neural networks techniques to solve real life problems.
He has deep passion in design and coming up with practical industrial solutions to help his community.
Mukoyi is a self-declared cyber-security and Artificial Intelligence expert.