Ebola has been rampaging through West Africa since March 2014 and currently there are no treatments or vaccines. The World Health Organisation has called this the most severe acute public health emergency in modern times.
The Scripps Research Institute needs an enormous supercomputer to analyse every byte of data. World Community Grid can bring together that amount of power from individual devices if enough people join in.
The Scripps Research Institute has begun collaborating with IBM’s World Community Grid to screen millions of chemical compounds to find any that could disable the virus. The project is titled Outsmart Ebola Together. The hope is that with the help of the power of individual computers across the world an Ebola cure can be found more quickly.
The project combines the computing power of individual computers over the internet into one virtual supercomputer that can work faster and more efficiently. Each computer crunches numbers for tiny pieces of a larger medical jigsaw then uploads the results to a central server. Chemical compounds identified as a promising Ebola cure will proceed to testing in the lab.
The software is safe and stable and only operates when there is unused processing capacity on your machine, so participation does not impact performance.
World Community Grid
World Community Grid has been operating for ten years. It connects over three million computers and mobile devices across the world. Volunteers using the software have participated in more than 20 research projects in areas such as malaria, AIDS, cancer and environmental issues. Together people have donated over one million years of computer time. The resulting data is freely available to any interested researcher.
The software works on Windows or Mac computers and Android mobile devices, but not yet on the iPhone or iPad. On mobile devices the programme works only when the device is charging and connected to Wi-Fi, so there’s no risk of draining batteries or running up wireless charges.
I’ve been running the software on my computers for the past nine years. When it comes to helping charity I never have as much time as I’d like to plus my family always comes first. And of course like most people I don’t have the skills to fight Ebola on the ground. So World Community Grid is a good way to know I’m contributing simply by turning on my computer.
When I stand back from my work I can see that my role’s not that important in the grand scheme of things – this project reconnects me to what matters most. And it means that I’m making a difference even when I’m twittering or wasting time on Youtube.
Charity is good for business
Part of the ethos behind charity involvement is showing you’re part of the same community as your customers – there can be no greater evidence of your organisation joining in than giving with every keystroke.
As well as joining in you’re also setting yourself apart from other organisations. Corporate Social Responsibility policy can improve the appeal of your brand for current and future employees as well as make it more attractive to consumers – in fact 82% of consumers say that commitment to charity affects where they shop and what they buy. You acquire a passive ‘air of goodness’ from contributing your computer time. Your community spirit becomes present in everything that you do online. This is unlike most charity participation which can appear as a separate and orchestrated PR exercise.Few companies have the technical skills or resources of IBM to create a global community infrastructure such as WCG. For every other organisation the most that you can do is be a part of it. Your skills and resources may be quite different – you may have the contacts and the creativity to shape something wonderful out of your involvement…
Create a team of contributors
- A natural focus for your business may be a team or department within the company. Your goal may be to unite teams of people without a direct work relationship or the whole company itself.
- You may want to look outside your company and set up an industry network of ‘Social Media Professionals to Save the World’ (enter your own keyword to search for an existing team).
- Or perhaps create a group that is open to your customers too. Many companies use the internet to engage with their customers in social media entertainment – using the internet at the same time for a contribution to society would give you a more rounded profile.
I’d really like to know if you do set up a group such as ‘Bloggers of the World Unite’, but I can’t join you… I’m already a member of a small WCG team, The Painless Charity of the Amazing Secret Angels. If you’re on flickr join us :)
Ebola is a crisis for the whole world. It’s going to take the whole world working together to beat it. The Scripps Research Institute needs an enormous supercomputer to analyse every byte of data. World Community Grid can bring together the amount of power required from individual devices if enough people join in.