BEIRUT: While doctors around the world search for a viable vaccine to fight COVID-19, the tech industry is examining the outbreak through coordinated data-sharing; an essential tool in the ongoing fight against the virus.
Mass data collection methods are already being put to use, and tech companies have developed mobile applications in a bid to make people more aware of their surroundings and track the spread of the disease.
In this context, the WHO launched an app to support health workers around the world in caring for patients infected by COVID-19 and in protecting themselves as they do this critical job. The app enables workers to access the WHO’s rapidly expanding bank of educational material and guidance, along with offering opportunities to participate in virtual skills workshops and other live training.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) helped the WHO bring forward the deployment of this app, 12 months ahead of schedule.
This is one of the multiple ways Amazon is using advanced cloud technologies and technical expertise to support the WHO and to help accelerate global efforts to track the novel coronavirus, understand it, and better contain its spread.
Making COVID-19 data available
The WHO has a COVID-19 situation dashboard or an interactive map, which gives a daily update on the latest global, and by country, numbers of COVID-19 cases.
“Thanks to support from tech companies, WHO was able to enhance the COVID-19 situation dashboard,” says WHO Chief Information Officer Bernardo Mariano. "Countries rely on this data to see how well certain interventions are working in other countries, to help them decide whether to do the same.”
AWS is providing automatic web content extraction, expertise in data analytics and processing, and open object storage (which enables the retention of large amounts of unstructured information) to help the WHO to share epidemiological data with its staff, public health bodies, Member States, and other health actors around the world, in a timely way.
The WHO’s Epidemic Intelligence aims to develop a unified global early warning system, using open source information - such as news articles and reports - to identify, verify, and assess potential public health threats.
The Open Sources initiative (EIOS) system manages, filters, and helps contextualize information on specific public health topics to make it available to the community of experts across the globe. The WHO says the system picked up the first article relating to COVID-19 at the end of December, and by mid-March was collating over 120,000 articles on the outbreak a day.
AWS is currently helping the WHO to develop a tool that enables it to collect and analyze COVID-19-related content from around the globe even more effectively, the tool will be used as a machine learning to help differentiate between "reliable" and "unreliable" content and will make information easier for the expert community to find and assess.
“This is where we are really seeing the power of AWS,” says Bernardo.
Managing increased demand for information
Traffic to the WHO website has increased almost eightfold since the beginning of the year, as more and more medical professionals and the public look for reliable, expert-led information on the coronavirus outbreak. AWS are providing the WHO with the increased computational capacity to help it scale rapidly and cope with this surge in demand, to ensure users around the world can access the website at any time.
Training more frontline responders
OpenWHO is the WHO’s interactive online platform, where frontline responders - including healthcare professionals - anywhere in the world, can access a huge catalog of training courses on dealing with health emergencies.
While the WHO has quickly made courses relating to the coronavirus outbreak available, the challenge remains to make the content, which is primarily video, available to more users by offering it in multiple languages. AWS are working on providing machine learning and media services to facilitate and speed up the production of this learning material, in different languages, with the aim of helping to reduce the turnaround time on each piece of content from a few days to a couple of hours.
AWS and Amazon are also providing fundraising support to WHO's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
For example, their video streaming service Twitch ran a 12-hour charity fundraiser, and Amazon Devices is participating in the WHO’s #PlayApartTogether campaign.
You can find more information about what Amazon is doing to support the global response to COVID-19 here.
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