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Technology in Communities

IBM actively looks for ways to directly apply its greatest strengths as a corporation to the challenges we face as a society. In many cases, that means using technology in creative and innovative ways that benefit our communities.

World Community Grid

Since 2004, IBM’s World Community Grid has pooled processing power from idle computers around the world to help solve humanitarian problems that require intensive computer analysis. We do this by using grid computing to join together many individual computers, creating a large, virtual system with massive computational power that far surpasses the power of all but a handful of supercomputers. Because the nature of the work is split into small pieces that can be processed simultaneously, research time is reduced from years to months and even to weeks.

World Community Grid is another example of how IBM tightly integrates its expertise as a technology and services company with its community service efforts. Since its launch, approximately 600,000 users have registered 2 million devices and have contributed more than 570,000 years of computing to help researchers understand childhood cancer, HIV/AIDS, muscular dystrophy, environmental issues, tropical diseases and more.

Watch up close and personal stories about World Community Grid from IBM supporters.

Research scientists who have utilized World Community Grid have published 30 research papers that discuss their findings. The Help Fight Childhood Cancer research project team at Chiba University in Japan has stated: “After screening 3 million candidate chemicals by molecular imaging and cellular toxicity, our project team has finally identified seven small chemical compounds which kill several neuroblastoma cells at very low concentration.”

In the absence of World Community Grid, Help Fight Childhood Cancer researchers would have had to undertake their investigation through individual docking simulations, which would have taken approximately 100 years to complete. With World Community Grid, analysis is being carried out for thousands of drug candidates in parallel, allowing high throughput screening to be conducted. Researchers estimate this will reduce the time required to about two years.

In 2010, IBM launched research projects to improve water quality; in 2011, we added projects focused on tropical diseases. Millions of people die each year from tropical diseases, many of which do not receive major research funding. World Community Grid links millions of personal computers to help researchers discover new compounds that accelerate the discovery of new drugs to combat tropical disease. To date, three tropical disease research projects have been launched on World Community Grid:

2 million computers have been registered to help accelerate critical humanitarian research on 11 current research projects.

The 11 active World Community Grid research projects are:

The key to World Community Grid is scaling capacity. That’s why every year IBM actively promotes the project and encourages new members to sign up. In 2011, we continued our social media strategy, and added LinkedIn and Citizen IBM to our Facebook and Twitter outreach. During the year, the grid added more than 255,000 new devices, contributed over 126,000 years of computer run time and returned more than 255 million discrete results to the research projects.

In early 2011, several World Community Grid projects were the recipients of winnings realized from the game show, Jeopardy! Watson, an artificially intelligent computing system developed by IBM, was a contestant on Jeopardy! and placed first, winning $1 million. Half of those winnings were donated as grants to a number of World Community Grid research projects with the goal of accelerating results.

The projects that received grants include:

  • Help Fight Childhood Cancer
  • Discovering Dengue Drugs—Together
  • FightAIDS@Home
  • Computing for Clean Water
  • Help Defeat Cancer (completed work on World Community Grid in 2007, but continues to analyze results)
  • Help Conquer Cancer
  • BOINC (Berkley, University of California for work on the BOINC software on which World Community Grid runs)
  • GO Fight Against Malaria
Watch up close and personal stories about World Community Grid from IBM supporters

IBM’s World Community Grid Unveils Research Projects on Tropical Disease

Services Grants

IBM strives to make its donations to the not-for-profit community sustainable, impactful and scalable. We closely tie many of our contribution offerings to our business expertise and product offerings. In this way, IBM eschews “checkbook philanthropy,” and instead engages not-for-profit organizations on a deeper, more collaborative level. This approach helps us better understand the true needs of these organizations to deliver greater value, and it helps the organizations better understand IBM.

IBM Services Grants are designed to offer not-for-profit organizations and schools a chance to enhance their operational performance and assist them in delivering better services to the community. These offerings were developed in collaboration with our partners in the not-for-profit community, and designed to help recipients improve process and infrastructure, as well as provide them with one-on-one access to IBM consultants with significant expertise in business areas such as strategic planning, project management and leadership training. By refining these core competencies, grantees are often able to solve current operational problems and make strategic decisions to build a strong organization for future growth. The grants often involve in-depth workshops or technology services such as analytics and cloud collaboration software.

In 2011, IBM expanded the Services Grant program, both within the United States and abroad. The company made 150 worldwide grants during the year, with a combined market value of $3.3 million. In addition, eight new offerings were developed and added to the portfolio to address common issues.

The packaged services and technology offerings of the Services Grants program will continue to evolve as the needs of the not-for-profit community change and IBM’s business offerings grow.

Currently, there are 13 grant offerings:

  • Brand Analysis in the Social Web
  • Leadership and Collaboration Workshop
  • Leadership Styles, Coaching and Climate Workshop
  • Marketing Strategy Roadmap
  • Project Management Workshop
  • Project Review & Consultation
  • SmartCloud for Social Business
  • SPSS Predictive Analytics
  • Strategic Assessment
  • Strategic Planning
  • Strategies for Social Media Workshop
  • Technology Roadmap
  • Web User Experience Analysis

Grant Profiles

SPSS Predictive Analytics: Families First (Atlanta, GA)

Families First, a social service agency based in Atlanta, GA, was awarded a grant from IBM to use SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) software, which examines an organization’s existing operational and market data to uncover unexpected patterns and associations, thereby helping to anticipate change and devise strategies to improve outcomes. The agency was able to vastly improve its analysis of client data and deploy SPSS functionality in service of risk management and compliance.

“This [SPSS] donation is critical to our success in this project because we will be looking at lots of different data sources and now we know how to merge them … [and] really analyze and interpret the data we are collecting,” said Christy Winter, Director of CQI and Practice Based Research at Families First. “We have improved our data analysis and are able to get deeper and more sophisticated information about our clients and the impact we have on them.”

Strategies for Social Media: Bilim Kahramanlarι Derneği (Turkey)

The Bilim Kahramanlarι Derneği (BKD) organization received consultation from IBM experts in social media. The organization aids disadvantaged youths interested in careers in the applied sciences, and the social media workshop provided volunteers in their Science Heroes Association and BKD’s public relations consultants with an increased level of social media awareness. It gave them a common language for discussing and developing social media strategies, and outlined a set of clear milestones to measure progress.

With these new skills, BKD will develop and apply social media strategies that will help enable closer ties with the communities it serves by sharing stories, gathering feedback and raising public awareness through the media. All of which will aid efforts to find volunteers, jury members and donors.

Project Management Workshop: Rede Cidadã (Brazil)

Rede Cidadã is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to promote citizenship and the collaboration of volunteers, businesses, civil society and government leading to greater social value. The organization has projects and initiatives in seven Brazilian states, offering opportunities for low-income segments of society.

“The partnership with IBM and the Project Management Workshop Services Grant gave us the possibility to develop a project management competency,” said Fernando Alves, executive director, Rede Cidadã. “After the training, the concepts changed to execution, and we implemented our Project Management Office, which currently has a team of three people. Since then we didn’t start any social project without using our new methodology.”

Strategic Planning: Raleigh Business & Technology Center (Raleigh, NC)

The Raleigh Business & Technology Center (RBTC) is a not-for-profit corporation serving the City of Raleigh as a small business incubator focused on economic and community development. The RBTC provides programming to strengthen core business practices as well as connectivity to community stakeholders and workforce opportunities. RBTC received the Strategic Planning grant to assist with their 2012 and Beyond expansion. Two of their most critical considerations were to establish corporate relationships that take advantage of the small business network and newly established IT capabilities sponsored by the City of Raleigh.

“The consultative services provided by IBM for our strategic plan were used as a catalyst for our programming model. The facilitators were excellent and the leadership model positioned our agency to learn and become a greater asset to the communities that we serve.”

Bob Robinson

North Carolina Workforce Development Commission

Small Business Development Programming

2010: 135 grants

2011: 150 grants

IBM continues to expand its Services Grants program. In 2011, IBM issued 150 grants, up from 135 in 2010.


Disaster Relief

Being an essential company in the world requires daily engagement to improve living conditions and opportunities, as well as the ability to respond to emergencies. IBM is ready to respond when disaster strikes, applying our expertise and resources in a systematic way to maximize our impact. We have learned over the last decade how our combination of technology, expertise and volunteers yields the greatest value to relief and recovery efforts. IBM’s mobilizations in the immediate aftermath of a disaster focus on the provision of information technology to government and relief organizations, enhancing their capacity to gather, manage and analyze critical information. We have taken this approach to 36 disasters in 20 countries since 2001.

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake with magnitude 9.0 hit the eastern part of Japan. The quake itself inflicted significant damage, but also triggered a massive tsunami that devastated coastal areas. The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant was seriously damaged, resulting in the release of radioactive material that caused local contamination. Like other companies around the world, IBM rushed to offer its resources to help.

In response to immediate needs, a coalition of technologists inside and outside IBM formed with the common purpose of deploying Sahana, an open source disaster management system, on IBM’s public cloud through a free hosting service. IBMers from across the region who had previously participated in Sahana deployments after other disasters helped to translate, debug, document, tune and customize the software. In time, Sahana contributed to the effective management of evacuees in Yamagata Prefecture, as well as cataloging conditions and supply needs of shelters in Iwate Prefecture.

For persons displaced by the nuclear accident, IBM helped establish an industry-government-academia disaster recovery support team to deploy a customized health promotion program with text messaging and alerts to facilitate “e-wellness.” IBM also applied data analytics technology to social media sources, and reported to the government’s Consumer Affairs Agency the resulting insights into individual experiences, resource and supply shortages, and migration patterns. Finally, reacting to the devastation of fishing cooperatives in Iwate Prefecture’s coastal area, IBM helped the fishing industry and related organizations with technology solutions.

IBM also assisted with longer term projects in Japan. We made Smarter Cities Challenge grants to the cities of Sendai and Ishinomaki, providing them with free access to some of our top experts who spent weeks onsite surveying homeowners, business owners, civic groups, social service organizations and local government officials about the kind of city they envision, and to identify the safest places for new roads, buildings and utilities. In total, 360 IBMers volunteered their time and expertise following the disaster in Japan, and IBMers across the world donated $1.5 million to relief efforts. Separately, the market value of IBM’s contributions of technology and services totaled $1.3 million.

While the situation in Japan demanded much of our focus in 2011, IBM also continued to assist other parts of the world that suffered natural disasters during prior years, and saw continued results from previous initiatives. For instance, our 2010 deployment of Sahana and LotusLive (now called SmartCloud for Social Business) at the Chilean Red Cross following the earthquake was activated to support response to wildfires in Quillon and to record snowfall in Lonquimay. The Red Cross Smarter Command Center used this deployment to generate maps of active volunteers in the sector, establish humanitarian aid necessary for emergency operations, mobilize resources and help identify storage facilities to stockpile staples. In the Lonquimay incident, the enhanced information flow and decision-making capabilities resulted in the Red Cross arriving on the scene three days ahead of other relief teams.

In Pakistan, where extensive flash flooding caused widespread damage and population displacement in August 2010, IBM sponsored intensive workshops in 2011 for front-line health workers and aid providers offering psychological support. In Antofagasta, Chile, which was rocked by damaging earthquakes in 2010, a group of IBM experts on a Corporate Service Corps team recommended ways for the city to rebuild its transportation, healthcare, recreation, energy and water management services even more efficiently and sustainably than before the disaster. And in Chegndu, China, which was devastated by earthquakes in 2008, an Executive Service Corps team of IBMers mapped out a plan to make the region more progressive, pro-business, technologically advanced, educationally sophisticated and environmentally sustainable.