10 Ways We're Using Data to Fight Disease

Crowdsourcing Computers
The World Community Grid asks people to donate the spare computing power of their personal devices to do research calculations for scientists. Kohei Hara/Getty Images

Gathering data into a central hub isn't the only way we can use crowdsourcing to help disease. Crowdsourcing computers to process the information are just as important.

The World Community Grid is an effort spearheaded by IBM that asks people to donate the spare computing power of their personal devices to fight disease. When your device is idle, it can do research calculations for scientists, so results that would have taken decades can be had in months. Crowdsourced computers have run simulations of cellular functions to understand diseases like tuberculosis; screened millions of chemical compounds against the target proteins that Zika likely uses to thrive in human bodies and identified genetic markers to help predict cancer.

More than 700,000 volunteers have signed on to help with these different projects already [source: World Community Grid]. With the amount of idle time that our collective devices could offer to these causes, this is one way that big data can make a big difference.

Author's Note: 10 Ways We're Using Data to Fight Disease

Reading about the ways in which data can be crowdsourced for the good really made me want to participate in something like FluNearYou. It would feel great to be one of the pieces of data that helps shape the picture of the health landscape, thereby affecting the way doctors choose treatment plans. Everyone can do their own little part!

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