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IBM is pioneering a new partnership between humanity and technology with the goal of transforming global health. Cognitive systems that understand, reason and learn are helping people expand their knowledge base, improve their productivity and deepen their expertise. With cognitive computing, we are now able to see health data that was previously hidden, and do more than we ever thought possible. The implications of IBM cognitive computing for corporate citizenship are profound. As an integral part of IBM’s overall strategy, our efforts to help improve global health at all levels — including in remote areas, developing economies and economically challenged communities in mature markets — are supported by the company’s worldwide resources and expertise.

In addition, IBM and volunteers together provide the massive computational power required for humanitarian research into solutions for disease and environmental issues — power that typically is beyond the reach of scientists in these areas. And our specialized software for nonprofit organizations ensures that providers of social support can focus on client service while maintaining compliance with public and private funding requirements and reporting of results.

Finally, IBM is a global leader in developing and deploying employee health initiatives. Read more at the conclusion of this section.

Applying cognitive computing to global issues

IBM Watson cognitive computing already is helping specialists at the Memorial Sloan Kettering and University of Texas MD Anderson cancer centers. Announced in 2015, IBM Health Corps will focus the strengths of cognitive computing and data analysis on community health issues such as age- and income-based health disparities, and healthcare access and delivery.

Our work with IBM Health Corps shows the potential of mobile technologies at the front end in Primary Care facilities and high-impact visual modeling at the policy-maker level to provide important insights and link key players in the healthcare management chain. Real-time insights will improve decision making and planning that will have real impact on healthcare access and patients’ lives.

— Saul Kornik, Chief Executive Officer, Africa Health Placements

Pilot projects in partnership with local governments and nonprofit organizations in Calderdale, U.K., and Johannesburg, South Africa, addressed these issues. And beginning in 2016, IBM will dispatch interdisciplinary IBM Health Corps teams to as many as five global destinations. The program will add more destinations in subsequent years.

Enabling humanitarian research

An essential aspect of promoting global health entails supporting humanitarian research, especially since scientific inquiry relies increasingly on computational power to find cures for disease and develop solutions to protect and sustain the environment. IBM’s World Community Grid works with groundbreaking researchers on HIV/AIDS, children’s cancers, Ebola, water-borne and mosquito-borne diseases, water purity and solar energy, to name a few. Unused computing power donated by volunteers from around the world is aggregated into a “virtual supercomputer” for scientists to which IBM grants access free of charge. In 2016, World Community Grid will also support research to better understand tuberculosis (TB) and develop strategies to combat it. TB ranks with HIV/AIDS as among the world’s deadliest afflictions.

TB is one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, and one-third of the world’s population harbors the TB bacterium. My team will use World Community Grid to help science better understand the TB bacterium so we can develop more effective treatments and eventually eradicate this threat to human health. Thanks to World Community Grid’s massive computational power, we can study many different mycolic acid structures instead of just a few. This type of analysis at this scale would otherwise be impossible.

— Anna Croft, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, Help Stop TB project and Associate Professor, Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham (U.K.)

In May 2016, World Community Grid announced its support of a research project to help find an effective treatment for the Zika virus, which is linked to severe brain defects in infants born to mothers who contracted the virus while pregnant. The OpenZika project aims to identify drug candidates to treat the virus, using software research tools to screen millions of chemical compounds against the target proteins that the Zika virus likely uses to survive and spread. As knowledge of the virus and key proteins are identified, the OpenZika team will use the new knowledge to refine their search.

World Community Grid



Years of computing time donated in 2015



New volunteers who joined World Community Grid in 2015



Devices that contribute unused computing time to humanitarian research

Tracking cancer trends

IBM in Hong Kong worked with The Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Stanley Ho Big Data Decision Analytics Research Centre to use IBM Watson Analytics to develop a visual analytics platform to uncover global cancer trends. The team aggregated 20 years of World Health Organization cancer data to analyze trends for 27 types of cancer across time, gender, age groups, developing and mature economies, and geographic regions. IBM Watson Analytics accelerated the team’s work through fast prototyping of visualization dashboards to help track trends.

Big data analytics for healthcare research has revolutionized the research paradigm for disease surveillance and trend projection. Visual analytics can be effectively used for spatial and temporal comparisons of cancer incidences, and also can enhance our understanding for better healthcare decision making. Watson Analytics tools facilitate this research discovery process.

— Professor Helen Meng, Director of the Stanley Ho Big Data Decision Analytics Research Centre, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Throughout 2015, IBM teams from India, the Netherlands and the United States collaborated with governments, universities and commercial enterprises on projects as diverse as mitigating the effects of climate change on water resources, improving the effectiveness of urban sanitary services, bettering the accuracy and response time of emergency medical services, developing more effective protocols for diagnosing mental illness, and using metagenomics to improve food safety.

Helping nonprofits help others

Long a global issue, income inequality in the United States is at its greatest levels in nearly 100 years. To make matters worse, public funding for programs to assist low-income individuals and families is at an all-time low. As a result, nonprofit organizations that provide social services must be increasingly streamlined and efficient to remain effective. These organizations also must observe scrupulous record-keeping practices to maintain their relationships with government agencies and private funders. Efforts to complete this process of documentation can distract from normal operations and diminish service to clients. In 2015, IBM completed the build of SafetyNet, a data management solution that supports nonprofits’ needs to collect and analyze essential contract, program and client information. SafetyNet is deployed free of charge to eligible nonprofit organizations. IBM partnered with New York City’s United Neighborhood Houses (UNH) — a membership organization of 38 settlement houses and community centers — to roll out SafetyNet to the Hudson Guild and the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center. UNH and these partners promote neighborhood-based services to low-income residents, and have realized time savings on reporting, administrative and assessment processes using SafetyNet — allowing them to serve their clients better.

Our organization has been assisting families in need for more than 120 years. Now, using IBM’s SafetyNet software, we can more efficiently measure and improve the services we provide on a daily basis, as well as increase our ability to demonstrate the impact of our work.

— Ken Jockers, Executive Director, Hudson Guild

Prioritizing employee well-being

IBM has long been a pioneer in encouraging and supporting healthy lifestyles and a meaningful work/life balance for employees.

Read about IBM’s 2015 employee well-being initiatives.