Nigeria CDC Archives COVID-19 Knowledge for Future Generations

The Nigerian national public health institute developed an advanced electronic archive management system to facilitate the country’s response to the next major outbreak

On February 27, 2020, Nigeria became the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to report a case of COVID-19. Building on its experience responding to the Ebola epidemic, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) swiftly mobilized resources and began leading the country’s response to contain the spread of the virus. 

NCDC’s Library and Knowledge Management (LKM) team quickly realized that the pandemic would represent a significant period in history. As NCDC and the federal and state ministries of health developed new guidelines, laws and regulations, the LKM team identified a need for a COVID-19 archive system that would record all the materials generated for future reference.

“Archives collected during a global pandemic will become important knowledge for future generations; proper documentation of COVID-19 resources can be considered an aspect of preparedness for the next disease outbreaks,” said Chinenye Benjamin, NCDC LKM officer. “NCDC’s COVID-19 archive system is an opportunity for Nigeria to curate and preserve its national knowledge, becoming possibly one of first countries to do so. Its resources will be useful to researchers, public health workers and healthcare practitioners within and outside Nigeria.”

Modern archive management typically involves a centralized software system – called an electronic archive management system or EAMS – that manages and stores digital files in multiple formats. An EAMS converts paper documents into digital assets through high-volume scanning and optimized character recognition. It enables a central organization of documents, making them easily searchable, accessible and secure. 

With technical and financial support from IANPHI and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Chinenye Benjamin and his team started developing an EAMS in July 2020 with the help of Biliamin Popoola, a consultant with NCDC. While its primary objective was to build an accurate collection of COVID-19-related materials, the EAMS would also support a more effective and efficient knowledge management process at NCDC, improving access to relevant information and enhancing decision making. 

In the past decade, Nigeria faced several types of outbreaks, including Ebola and Lassa fever. Each time similar processes were put in place to organize the responses, but the institutional memory was not fully preserved. The need to establish archives to capture these processes was one of the lessons learned from past outbreaks. As NCDC’s first archive system, the EAMS aims to standardize and preserve processes, and foster efficiency and consistency. It should also help reduce the time needed to train health workers in future outbreaks, reduce operational ambiguity, and provide best practices.

“Such archives would have been so helpful at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when governments and public health response teams across the globe grappled to put together guidelines, protocols, resources, materials and regulations to address the outbreak,” said Dr. Chinwe Ochu, director of the Prevention Programs and Knowledge Management Department. “This concept will ensure proper documentation of what transpired in Nigeria’s public health environment during this period.”

Through this project, NCDC also aspires to increase its relevance and visibility as Nigeria’s leading public institute, and provide an avenue for research collaboration and dissemination that allows for greater reach, especially with the country’s universities.

A Concerted Effort from All NCDC Departments Involved in the Response

In the first phase of the project, the LKM team held consultations with stakeholders to decide what would constitute materials of historical value to public health activities and research in the country. Target materials covered risk communications; infection prevention and control; surveillance; and laboratory, and included guidelines and policies; protocols; reports, toolkits and workflow charts; photographs, audio and video recordings; interviews, speeches and lectures; press conferences, press clippings, advertorials and public announcements; trainings materials; letters; books and journal publications. The NCDC Library and Knowledge Management team then worked with those stakeholders to gather the materials identified during the consultations while the EAMS was being developed.

Building the archive required the cooperation of all units involved in the Nigerian pandemic response, including the national Emergency Operations Center, the state-level Public Health Emergency Operations Centers, and the office of the director general, which provided the materials that emanated or passed to it, including personal notes, diaries and Twitter dataset.

The EAMS was developed using DSpace, a free open-source software, which enables the capturing, storage, indexing, preservation and distribution of the digital contents. DSpace is also used by another IANPHI member, Argentina’s National Administration of Laboratories and Institutes of Health, for an innovative knowledge management system called SGC-ANLIS.

According to Dr. Ochu, the most time-consuming phase of the project was data entry. It involved digitalizing part of the materials and tagging each item in the system with appropriate metadata (keywords, etc.) to facilitate their accessibility and retrieval. Eighty percent of the resources identified (over 350) have been entered so far. Knowledge Management focal points were appointed across NCDC’s departments and trained to keep curating and depositing new materials in the EAMS.

The EAMS has already been deployed on NCDC’s intranet and its access restricted for now to the institute’s staff members. Staff buy-in was slow at first but has now improved. Access will eventually be expanded to public health workers around the world, researchers, universities, and potentially the general public.

The archive system will also be deployed for NCDC’s programs and activities unrelated to COVID-19, which will be organized in additional collections. NCDC is particularly interested in the value of the EAMS for after-action review (AAR). The system allows easy access to documents for desk reviews during AAR and similar evaluation work.

The COVID-19 archives will also be a part of NCDC’s future National Public Health Repository, a knowledge management platform that the Nigerian institute is looking to establish with the support of IANPHI. The repository project aims to share NCDC's knowledge with the global health community. Unlike the EAMS, the repository will be accessible to all via a website and will include a portion of the COVID-19 collection. 

If you are interested in finding out more about NCDC’s EAMS project or in implementing a similar project, please contact Dr. Chinwe Ochu (

Share This Story