IBM tech to fight Ebola in Africa

'For us to tackle Ebola, it is crucial to maintain an open dialogue between the government and the people of Sierra Leone.'
By Bernie Monegain
10:19 AM
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Telco operator Airtel has set up the toll-free number via which citizens are able to send SMS messages.

"Mobile technology is Africa's most powerful communications platform providing an important channel for reaching large numbers of the population," said Sudipto Chowdhury, managing director of Airtel, Sierra Leone. "As one of Africa's leading mobile operators, we will do everything we can to ensure that mobile technology contributes to tackling the spread of Ebola, and we are partnering with IBM to ensure the effective flow of information between the government and the citizens of Sierra Leone."

[See also: DeSalvo drafted to tackle Ebola.]

Connections tech in Nigeria
Nigeria has taken a leadership position in the fight against Ebola and has recently been declared free of the virus. To support the country's preparedness for future outbreaks, IBM has donated its Connections technology to Nigeria's Lagos State Government.

Nigeria's Lagos State Government hosts the Ebola Operations Center that coordinates disease containment efforts on behalf of the Nigerian government and other organizations.

IBM’s technology donation will help strengthen the coordination of public health emergency response teams and ensure that the Lagos State Government is able to manage and respond to any new reported cases of Ebola or future epidemics.

IBM's Connections technology has a proven track record in humanitarian disaster response situations. It provides health workers and administrators with a reliable and secure digital platform to work together virtually and in person, enabling them to securely share documents, identify experts, exchange video, chat and audio messages, provide updates, tap into information via mobile devices and hold virtual meetings. Storing information securely and conveniently in the digital cloud means that vital information can be accessed by authorized users anywhere.

IBM has previously provided similar technology in other crisis situations around the world to support collaboration and coordination amongst response agencies. In 2010, SmartCloud supported a post-Haiti quake effort called Colleagues in Care, which helped doctors in Haiti learn from doctors in the U.S. and elsewhere. The Chilean Red Cross used the platform to establish a disaster command center following the 2010 Chile earthquake. The platform was also used by agencies in the U.S. following Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and for flooding recovery activities in Colorado in 2013.

IBM is broadly offering access to its IBM Connections cloud-based platform to all government agencies and non-governmental organizations working to stem the spread of Ebola.

Data repository
Globally, IBM volunteers are leading a community effort to help identify, inventory and classify all open data sources related to the Ebola outbreak and are calling on organizations worldwide to contribute data.

The goal is to create a cloud-based Ebola open data repository that will provide governments, aid agencies and researchers with free and open access to valuable open data related to Ebola.

To support the work, IBM volunteers helped organize a recent Ebola open data brainstorming session in New York where members of the local tech community met with health experts and aid organizations to develop open data solutions to help tackle Ebola.

"Data can be a powerful resource for managing and mitigating epidemics," said Jeanne Holm, evangelist for Data.Gov. "Governments and other organizations have valuable open data that could help in relief efforts – about roads, airports, schools, medical facilities and populations. Such information can help to drive data-driven decisions during times of uncertainty. IBM is playing a key role in this initiative by helping to identify and gather more open data sources that might inform decisions around Ebola."