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Powerful technologies and expertise can help provide better data and help people better understand their situation. As the world contends with the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, officials battling the pandemic need tools and valid information at scale to help foster a greater sense of security for the public. As technologists, we have been heartened by the prevalence of projects such as Call for Code, hackathons and other attempts by our colleagues to rapidly create tools that might be able to help stem the crisis. But for these tools to work, they need data from sources they can validate. For example, reopening the world’s economy will likely require not only testing millions of people, but also being able to map who tested positive, where people can and can’t go and who is at exceptionally high risk of exposure and must be quarantined again.
One of the main problems the clinicians, scientists and researchers studying the data behind the crisis say they are facing as they try to map and contain the crisis, is lack of integration of verified data sources that can be used with confidence. While there are lots of reputable sources researchers can turn to like the figures from the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, and others, much of the data being communicated among hospitals and government agencies or public/private partnerships is inconsistent, or it can’t easily be shared.
IBM has been engaged by purpose-driven entities like HACERA who have meaningful projects like MiPasa that are designed to have impact on the outcomes during this time of crisis.
Introducing MiPasa: Integrating data at scale
MiPasa is utilizing data analytics and privacy tools that were previously only available to elite financial institutions and adapted them for a public health context. This new data streaming platform uses IBM Blockchain Platform and IBM Cloud. MiPasa is designed to make it possible to synthesize data sources, address their inconsistencies, help identify errors or misreporting and seamlessly integrate credible new feeds. Our hope is that this tool can help technologists, data scientists and public health officials by giving them the data they need at scale to respond and devise solutions that can help subdue the outbreak or support recovery.
What MiPasa provides is attested data using three types of validations between disparate data sources: reconciliation of disparate data sources like the WHO figures, the CDC figures and others; ensuring new data entered into the system matches the original, and a third level of validation comes from the public, who could report inconsistencies or bad data and give public health officials a seamless way to analyze and respond to public sentiment.
MiPasa is supported by a multi-disciplinary group of health professionals, software and app developers and privacy experts who are all working together to make it easy to gather reliable, quality data, and make it easily accessible to the appropriate entities. The onboarding is done through the Unbounded Network, which is running a production version of The Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric on multiple clouds. IBM has been amongst the early supporters of the Unbounded Network, which is helping more participants to collaborate openly, through permissioned and non-permissioned blockchains, and has been in production since 2018.
What MiPasa has created, specifically, is an open platform for attested coronavirus data built on Hyperledger Fabric. MiPasa already draws data from the World Health Organization, the Center of Disease Control, the Israeli Public Health Ministry and any qualified agencies are able to easily integrate new platforms of their own with the simple use of APIs. This will make it vastly easier to collect, collate and study information about the outbreak’s spread and containment, a resource MiPasa hopes can help public health officials, the business and scientific community and the public at large more efficiently battle the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Because this information is recorded on a permissioned ledger, additional applications can be quickly built on top of it.
Why data integration is so urgent
A strong data platform lays a foundation for helping to solve many other problems. MiPasa is already working to make it possible to build a map of all those that are infected using privacy-enabled self-reporting. This would allow public health officials and individuals to upload data about the time and exact location of different infections. This data source is stripped of personally identifying information, allowing a person to see if they’ve been in the vicinity of someone who has been infected before. Using this approach, an application is under development that could make it possible to help verify self-reported data, creating a much more expansive picture of the outbreak and pinpoint more precisely where isolations and quarantines need to happen. Public health officials and individuals could even use mapping data to calculate a risk of exposure, helping hospitals prioritize resources and letting individuals know whether it’s really critical for them to get a test.
We hope others will join us in this effort. We eagerly want more data providers to either contribute their own data, for example governments, hospitals, and anyone who might want to share this information with researchers fighting the outbreak. We are also inviting researchers in statistics and probability, machine learning and A.I. to help us analyze the data. Finally, we’re also looking for other types of resources as well, from developers to help us fix code, to application designers that can harness the powerful data platform that we have built.
HACERA believes MiPasa can help the global community rapidly respond to this crisis on a more individualized and compassionate level using an open source approach. Interested and qualified researchers, data providers, developers or anyone else interested in collaborating can learn more at MiPasa.org.