The Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone has few stories of recovery or improvement. But the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) hopes to make a change in the Western African country and bring an end to the Ebola nightmare.
With an estimated 10,000 people diagnosed with Ebola worldwide, over half of whom have already succumbed to the disease, the private sector has become heavily involved in providing medical aid to victims. But in order for medical aid to actually reach Ebola patients and medical professionals, IBM has created the technological infrastructure to better monitor the expansion of the disease itself. The corporation has started collecting cellular data in order to better track the spread of the disease in the region. Company sponsored hotlines and telephone numbers have also been opened for public use so that medical assistance and supplies can reach victims.
One of the most tragic elements of the outbreak of Ebola in Sierra Leone is the lack of communication, which has allowed it to spread to an international level. Communication between the victim and governmental regulatory agencies has been minimal in the early stages of diagnosis. Now that the disease has spread across the globe, streamlined communication from the individual to the international level is imperative for better monitoring of the infirmed and for the prevention of the spread of the virus.
The emergency IBM phone lines have purportedly been accessed thousands of times in the past few weeks since their opening. The availability of these hotlines is critical for getting medical aid to victims as 60 percent of the Sierra Leone population is illiterate. The phone lines give the people of Sierra Leone the ability to reach out for local help, and in return, IBM collects information about the victim, the location of the phone call and the nature of the request. In response to the movement in the private sector for improved communication, the local government is reviewing the collected data and making specific requests to international aid organizations to combat the disease.
Ebola is a disease that has been in the African continent for decades, affecting thousands of people, but the current outbreak is the worst in history. The initiative by IBM to offer better communication at the local level offers a new opportunity for increased effectiveness in deterring the spread of Ebola.