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Tao of open source applied to outbreaks

November 10, 2014

The real heroes in the ebola response story are the medical folks on the front line (damn, if MSF is not just a bunch of straight talk bad asses). Yet as this sad story has developed I can see a need for help from the software community in terms of tech talent in order to bring the latest Web tech to bear in the global ebola response. And let us think big: not just this rather small, tragic outbreak but what about the global infrastructure for all future outbreaks? Is that really going to be WHO gather data and slowly publishing via HTML and PDFs?

This thought has been bothering me for a while and now I’ve decided to try and help as I see a clear path forward on a specific tech issue: getting the numbers and dates out (lots more to come on this).

As the press has asked, Why Isn’t Silicon Valley Doing More to Fight Ebola? And, well, there have been some private financial donations big and small, the biggest being:

$ Source
$126MM Allen
$50MM Gates
$25MM Zuckerberg
$15MM Page

Making it rain is great and good on them. That money will go through the old and some new channels to buy “materials and services and provide swift action where it is needed”. What I see though is a need for better software (“have hammer, see nails” I guess) and new channels — Internet channels.

So, let’s see if the tao of open source can be brought to bear on this problem (a ludicrously outdated global outbreak monitoring infrastructure) and if some tech talent can be rallied to the cause.


John Tigue

Tech and neuroscience writting by John Tigue, who also microblogs about (mostly) similar topics on Twitter as @johntigue