Technology giant International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is launching a series of campaigns aimed at fighting Ebola, a viral disease that has already claimed the lives of thousands of victims. Most of these deaths have taken place in Africa, although the disease has been confirmed in other nations, including the United States.
Sierra Leone is one of the nations that has suffered the greatest during the current outbreak. In that country of just over six million people, IBM has provided a communications system that provides communities with easier communications with government. The company is also funding future outbreak preparations, managed by the government of Nigeria. A large database of Ebola-related information has also been prepared by the New York-based corporation.
Users of the new systems will be able to report on conditions and events in their local communities, using text messages, or by making a phone call. That information will be made available to governments, as well as health organizations and private researchers.
"We saw the need to quickly develop a system to enable communities directly affected by Ebola to provide valuable insight about how to fight it. Using mobile technology, we have given them a voice and a channel to communicate their experiences directly to the government," Uyi Stewart, chief scientist Research in Africa for IBM, said.
Data collected from residents are analyzed by supercomputers, utilizing the digital cloud.
Locales with growing numbers of victims have already been identified by the new system. In addition, delivery of supplies such as electricity and soap, have been made more efficient through the new database.
Airtel, one of the companies providing mobile phone service in the region, has launched a number which residents can use to report on Ebola, free of charge. Radio stations in Sierra Leone are encouraging listeners to participate in the system, reporting what they know about local conditions. Announcements are being made in English, as well as Krio, another widely-spoken language in the country.
Nigeria was recently declared to be free of the disease, after officials there identified and quarantined those people who had been in contact with their lone victim. Nina Pham, a nurse in the United States who contracted the disease, was recently declared healthy and released from a special treatment center where she was being treated.
Ebola has already been diagnosed in more than 9,000 patients, over half of whom have died of the disease. Recent research shows the disease, which was first detected in 1976, evolved millions of years ago, when it became a distinct life form from the deadly Marburg virus.