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Supercomputing and open data to stop the expansion of Ebola in Africa

Supercomputing and open data to stop the expansion of Ebola in Africa

In Sierra Leone, the multinational IBM has launched a system. That collects data, on Ebola cases of citizens’ calls and SMS and represents them on maps. That show where greater efforts are required. Nigeria has also received a platform for the exchange of open data about the virus.

The IBM research center in Africa, based in Nairobi, Kenya. They put its supercomputing, big data and cloud computing resources to work to help curb. the spread of the Ebola virus in countries like Sierra Leone.

The initiatives launched by IBM include a system that makes it easier for citizens to make phone calls and send text messages with topics related to Ebola in Sierra Leone. The goal is for the government and health workers in that country – the most punished by the outbreak – to have more information about how the disease is expanding, the company says.

The telephone lines launched have received thousands of calls in recent weeks. IBM’s laboratory researchers in Kenya are using that huge amount of information to create a map that shows where more effort is required using its powerful big data platform.

According to Uyi Stewart, chief scientist of IBM Research in Africa, the system provides a practical vision to the Government of Sierra Leone about the day-to-day experiences of communities directly affected by Ebola to improve its strategy of containing the disease.

Stewart explains that in this plan it has been crucial to give people the option of making calls, since 60% of the population of that country is illiterate.

The telecommunications operator Airtel has established the toll-free telephone number through which citizens can call or send SMS messages.

Heat maps

The person in charge points out that by combining the capabilities of supercomputing, data analysis and cloud computing , the system is able to quickly identify correlations and highlight emerging issues in the set of data messages.

Because SMS and voice data are location-specific, IBM is able to create opinion-based heat maps that link public sentiment with location information.

All this has allowed, for example, to bring to light specific regions with an increasing number of suspected cases of Ebola. That require urgent supplies, such as soap and electricity, and faster response times for the collection and burial of bodies. The system has also highlighted problems with the diagnosis of Ebola, giving arguments to the Government of Sierra Leone to ask for more facilities. And test equipment from the international community, explains IBM.

Help platform after catastrophe

The multinational has also made its technology available to the Government of Nigeria. The country that has been without Ebola for almost 50 days and which has been declared free by the WHO. There, IBM has donated a global platform called Connections for the exchange of open data related to the virus to “strengthen the preparation of the government of the state of Lagos to future outbreaks of the disease.”

The firm says, that this technology has already been tested to organize aid after catastrophes such as earthquakes in Haiti. “The storage of information safely and conveniently in the digital cloud means that authorized users can access vital information hosted in the cloud from anywhere,” the company emphasizes.

project to help identify, inventory and classify all sources of open source information related to the Ebola outbreak. The volunteers have called on organizations around the world to provide data.

The goal is to open a repository of data on Ebola in the cloud that provides governments, aid agencies and researchers with free and open access to valuable information about the virus.


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