IBM Launches Ebola Humanitarian Initiatives
3D Ebola virus model
IBM announces the launch of humanitarian initiatives to help fight the spread of Ebola in West Africa. As part of its affected country assistance program, IBM is introducing an analytics system in Sierra Leone that helps citizens report cases and get advice on issues of concern to them. In addition, IBM is providing the IBM Connections platform, which will help the Nigerian government prepare for possible outbreaks in the future, as well as a global platform for sharing open data on the Ebola virus.
These initiatives combine the expertise of the global network of IBM research laboratories with the company's many years of experience in disaster management using mobile technology, data analytics and cloud computing. IBM initiatives are helping government and humanitarian organizations deal with deadly diseases.
IBM is partnering with the Sierra Leone Open Government, Cambridge University Africa’s Voice project, and partnering with partner companies Airtel and Echo Mobile.
Analytics System in Sierra Leone
IBM's new research laboratory in Africa, in collaboration with the government of Sierra Leone, has developed a system that allows citizens to report cases through telephone or SMS consultations. The system provides the country's leadership with important information about the mood among the population in order to help improve the strategy for combating the disease.
“In this situation, it is crucial to maintain an open dialogue between the government and the citizens of Sierra Leone,” commented Khadija Sesay, Project Manager for the Open Government Sierra Leone. “IBM helps improve community engagement through innovative technologies that enable effective communication channels. Thanks to this, we can analyze the incoming information and take appropriate measures to combat the virus. "
Combining the capabilities of a supercomputer and analytical tools in a cloud environment, the system can quickly determine logical connections and priority tasks based on messages received from citizens. Since voice and SMS data are tied to the user's location, the IBM system can create intensity maps that correlate incoming information with geolocation data.
For example, the system has already helped to identify some regions of the country with an increasing number of suspected Ebola disease, where urgent humanitarian intervention is required, namely the supply of detergents, disinfectants and electricity sources, as well as the burial of victims of the virus. Moreover, the system helps to identify cases in which the diagnosis of the disease is difficult. Thus, on the basis of the information received, the government of the country may ask the international community to provide the necessary resources and equipment for testing.
“As the first technology laboratory in Africa, we use our unique position to drive innovation to address the most serious problems of the continent,” said Dr. Uyi Stewart, Principal Research Fellow, IBM Research Africa. - We realized that there is a need to create such a system that would help citizens to influence the increase in the effectiveness of the fight against the virus. Using mobile technologies, we gave them the opportunity to transfer personal experience directly to representatives of the government of the country. ”
The system also uses broadcasting to support people and inspire them to share their opinions. Cambridge University Africa’s Voices project staff helped develop a citizen engagement model that uses public announcements to get feedback from citizens in both English and Cryo — one of the main languages spoken in Sierra Leone.
“Radio is a powerful communication tool in Africa, but its potential for collecting and analyzing feedback has largely not been realized,” commented Dr. Sharath Srinivasan, director of the Center for Management and Human Rights at the University of Cambridge. “In collaboration with IBM, we offer Sierra Leone citizens the opportunity to express their opinions. “This communication channel, in turn, allows you to quickly analyze data and evaluate the effectiveness of public service announcements, as well as influence the possible misunderstanding of the Ebola virus by the population.”
Airtel, a mobile network operator, has commissioned a hotline that residents can use to send free SMS messages.
“Mobile technology provides a powerful communications platform,” said Sudipto Chowdhury, Managing Director of Airtel in Sierra Leone. “As one of the largest mobile operators in Africa, we are doing everything in our power to counteract the spread of Ebola using mobile technology.” Our partnership with IBM is designed to increase the effectiveness of the exchange of information between citizens of the country and its leadership. ”
Kenyan startup Echo Mobile, which specializes in providing mobile voice services in underdeveloped countries, is responsible for the anonymization of SMS data.
“We are trying to make the flow of messages from patients, health workers and ordinary citizens of the country useful for further combating the disease, able to provide a more detailed picture of the situation,” commented Jeremy Gordon, product development director, Echo Mobile.
Currently, IBM is looking for the possibility of analyzing data from mobile phone signals in order to monitor and track the natural movement of the population, which, in turn, will help scientists predict the spread of the virus.
Technology that simplifies coordination
Nigeria has taken a leading position in the fight against a deadly disease, and not so long ago was declared a territory freed from fever. To prepare the country for potential outbreaks of the virus in the future, IBM donated Connections technology to the Nigerian government at no cost.
The Government of Nigeria has launched an Operations Center, which is responsible for coordinating efforts to counter Ebola on behalf of the state and other organizations. IBM technology will help improve coordination between task forces and improve government preparedness for future outbreaks.
IBM Connections Technology has a proven track record in disaster management. It provides healthcare professionals with a reliable and secure digital collaboration platform, allowing you to exchange documents and videos, send text and voice messages, update relevant information and access it via mobile devices, and hold virtual meetings. Moreover, the technology offers the possibility of reliable and convenient data storage in the cloud, thus providing the function of access to information for authorized users from anywhere in the world.
Previously, IBM provided this technology at no cost in other crisis situations around the world to support collaboration between relief agencies. So, in 2010, IBM SmartCloud cloud solutions helped doctors involved in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. The Chilean Red Cross used the platform to deploy the 2010 earthquake management command center. The same platform was later used by the U.S. government in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the Flood in Colorado in 2013. Today, IBM offers access to the IBM Connections cloud platform to all government organizations fighting Ebola.
Ebola Open Data Warehouse
IBM volunteers launched a global community initiative to help identify and classify all open data sources related to the Ebola outbreak, and encourage organizations from around the world to contribute to the collection of important information.
IBM volunteers also helped organize the Ebola Open Data Workshop in New York, where representatives of the local technology community met with healthcare experts to discuss the development of appropriate Ebola solutions.