Red Hat Was Just Bought By IBM For $34 Billion: Its Co-Founder Started Working From A Closet
November 26, 2021
June 28, 2021
Zzapp Malaria, a company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to fight malaria just won the grand prize in one of the toughest technology competitions to date. The competition is a joint venture between XPrize, “the world’s leader in designing and operating incentive competitions to solve humanity’s grand challenges,” and IBM Watson, which is IBM’s flagship AI platform, culminating in a $3 million dollar award for Zzapp.
Zzapp’s mission is straight-forward: use cutting edge technology to eliminate malaria in an efficient and scalable manner. The technology behind the company’s platform is described as “a software system that supports the planning and implementation of malaria elimination operations. Zzapp uses artificial intelligence to identify malaria hotspots and optimize interventions for maximum impact. Zzapp's map-based mobile app conveys the AI strategies to field workers as simple instructions, ensuring thorough implementation.”
Specifically, the company explains: “Malaria transmission takes place where water bodies and human populations converge: water bodies are necessary for mosquito larvae to develop, and humans act as the reservoir for the Plasmodium parasites responsible for malaria, and as a source of blood for mosquitoes […] In collaboration with Zzapp, IBM Watson’s AI and Data Science Elite Team has developed a weather analysis module that predicts the abundance of water bodies based on weather data, allowing Zzapp to better time interventions, and more accurately determine the resources required to implement them.”
An older video on the company’s YouTube channel provides more insight into the process:
Innovation in this space could not come at a better time. Malaria is a devastating disease. Per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, symptoms of malaria are extensive, entailing “fever and flu-like illness, including shaking chills, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur.” Moreover, the CDC explains that “If [malaria is] not promptly treated, the infection can become severe and may cause kidney failure, seizures, mental confusion, coma, and death.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports jarring statistics regarding the widespread impact of the disease: “In 2019, there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria worldwide […] The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 409 000 in 2019.” The WHO also states that the “African Region carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden,” with children under 5 years of age being the most vulnerable group to the disease.
Indeed, initiatives such as Zzapp’s effort to eradicate Malaria at the source point before it can even spread in a community may potentially add incredible value to the fight against the disease. Additionally, leveraging AI systems to identify the targets to focus on is a relatively new concept, and may become a worthwhile effort if the technology proves to be viable.
Zzapp’s victory in the competition is undoubtedly prestigious and deserves notable recognition. But perhaps equally if not more important, the victory signifies that the world is paying attention to a disease that is responsible for nearly half a million deaths annually. Indeed, there is still a long road ahead in the war against malaria; however, perhaps this small victory provides hope for a potentially better course ahead.
Image Source: Getty Images
November 26, 2021
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