Social Technologies for Community Response to Epidemics

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Studies of the 1918 H1N1 influenza pandemic , show that US cities which implemented vigorous measures for public health and social distancing were measurably less affected than those that did not. Could today’s social technologies enable an even more efficient public response than was possible in 1918? Could epidemic spread in the UK even be stopped with suitably coordinated community behavioural responses?

If a severe pandemic broke out tomorrow, it is likely that ordinary people in the UK would want to make the fullest use of their digital devices to inform themselves about the disease and to get the latest information on the epidemic. They would use online social networking to spread news and engage in discussion. They would use social networks to discover if any of their family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances were sick. It is likely that they would want the latest and most accurate information; that they would use every means available to them to get it; and that they would try to use this information to avoid catching the disease themselves.

This paper will briefly discuss four technologies that could help empower a community to control an epidemic:
1. Online social networking
2. Localisation and tracking using smartphones
3. Voted discussion systems
4. Online coordination of local community support.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTackling Antimicrobial Resistance - Identifying Future Research Themes
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the Conference Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance, 6 February 2013
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoyal United Services Institute
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013
EventTackling Antimicrobial Resistance: Identifying Future Research Themes - Royal United Services Institute, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 6 Feb 20136 Feb 2013


ConferenceTackling Antimicrobial Resistance: Identifying Future Research Themes
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • antimicrobial resistance
  • public health campaign
  • digital epidemiology
  • MOOC

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