Amazon Web Services helps WHO respond to COVID-19

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DUBAI — The WHO has launched an app to support health workers around the world in caring for patients infected by COVID-19, as well as to protect themselves as they do this critical work.

The app enables workers to access the WHO’s rapidly expanding bank of educational material and guidance, along with offering opportunities to participate in virtual skills workshops and other live training.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has helped the WHO bring forward the deployment of this app, 12 months ahead of schedule, in response to COVID-19.

It is one of multiple ways we are supporting the WHO with advanced cloud technologies and technical expertise, to help accelerate global efforts to track the coronavirus, understand its outbreak, and better contain its spread.

Making COVID-19 data available

The WHO has a COVID-19 ‘situation dashboard’, or interactive map, which gives a daily update on the latest global, and by country, numbers of COVID-19 cases.

“Thanks to support from tech companies, WHO was able to enhance the COVID-19 situation dashboard,” says WHO Chief Information Officer Bernardo Mariano.

“Countries rely on this data to see how well certain interventions are working in other countries, to help them decide whether to do the same.”

AWS is providing automatic web content extraction, expertise in data analytics and processing, and open object storage (which enables the retention of large amounts of unstructured information) to help the WHO to share epidemiological data with its staff, public health bodies, member states, and other health actors around the world, in a timely way.

Supporting a public health ‘early warning system’

The WHO’s Epidemic Intelligence from Open Sources initiative (EIOS) aims to develop a unified global early warning system, using open source information — such as news articles and reports — to identify, verify, and assess potential public health threats.

The EIOS system manages, filters and helps contextualize information on specific public health topics, so it can be made available to the EIOS community of experts across the globe.

The WHO says the system picked up the first article relating to COVID-19 at the end of December, and by mid-March was collating over 120,000 articles on the outbreak a day.

We are now helping the WHO develop a tool to enable it to collect and analyze high volumes of COVID-19-related content from around the globe even more effectively. The tool will use machine learning to help differentiate between ‘reliable’ and ‘unreliable’ content, and will make information easier for the expert community to find and assess.

“This is where we are really seeing the power of AWS,” says Bernardo.

Managing increased demand for information

Traffic to the WHO website has increased almost eightfold since the beginning of the year, as more and more medical professionals, and members of the public, look for reliable, expert-led information on the coronavirus outbreak.

We are providing the WHO with increased computational capacity to help it scale rapidly and cope with this surge in demand, to ensure users around the world can access the website at any time.

Training more frontline responders

OpenWHO is the WHO’s interactive online platform, where frontline responders — including healthcare professionals — anywhere in the world, can access a huge catalogue of training courses on dealing with health emergencies.

While the WHO has quickly made courses relating to the coronavirus outbreak available, the challenge remains to make the content, which is primarily video, available to more users by offering it in multiple languages.

AWS is working on providing machine learning and media services to facilitate and speed up the production of this learning material, in different languages, with the aim of helping to reduce the turnaround time on each piece of content from a few days, to a couple of hours.

Fundraising efforts

AWS and Amazon are also providing fundraising support to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the WHO. For example our video streaming service Twitch ran a 12-hour charity fundraiser, and Amazon Devices is participating in the WHO’s #PlayApartTogether campaign. — SG


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