Empowered: Stories of Humanity + Tech– Fighting Infectious Disease


There’s a problem in Panama and it spawns
from these things, mosquito larvae. These larvae can fully mature within a week
and go on to spread potentially fatal diseases like Dengue Fever, Chikingunya, and Zika. With a population of about four million, mosquitoes
in Panama need to be controlled. And they need to be controlled fast. Panama has a population of 3.8 million inhabitants
and only 500 vector inspectors. That’s a lot of responsibility and not so
many resources. With so few resources, Vector Technicians
face an uphill battle everyday. So, this past spring, as part of their citizenship
initiative, IBM partnered on a project with the Ministry of Health of Panama and the Gorgas
Memorial Institute for Health Studies. The project’s goal? Empower vector technicians with stronger technology
to improve efficiency and allow them to serve the country faster. The vector technicians they really are the
key in combating disease and we quickly found that out. We saw them collecting data on potential breeding
sites by hand. They added it manually, sent it to a regional
level that then would add it up again and send it to the national level. By the time that information got to the public
health officials it was almost obsolete so we needed to do was empower them to be
able to be quicker. So we created an app that would take their
paper processes and digitize them. So what used to take weeks now takes a couple
hours. The vector technicians were really excited
to get some outside help, but new technology can be really daunting. Once they were involved and they saw that
their feedback was going into the app, they were actually really excited. The social impact project in Panama worked
because the solutions were co-created by health researchers, local officials, and IBM. Empowering those on the front lines who are
tackling pressing challenges with the right technology and skills, helps make the world
a healthier place for all.

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