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Icons of Progress

World Community Grid

With viruses, worms, Trojans and other malware causing problems for many computer users, the idea of installing a program that “borrows” your computer resources may seem counterintuitive. But the technology behind World Community Grid is designed to take advantage of existing personal computer usage patterns for the benefit of humanitarian causes in an approach that has no impact on your normal use. The idea came to prominence with the SETI@home project, which uses volunteer computers to analyze radio telescope data. The World Community Grid team took this idea and put it to work to address key societal concerns.

Addressing the millennium development goals

In September 2000, world leaders adopted the United Nations Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to reduce extreme poverty. This document set out a series of targets—with a deadline of 2015—that have become known as the Millennium Development Goals. There are eight goals; World Community Grid projects are directly and aggressively taking on six of them:

  • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Reduce child mortality
  • Improve maternal health
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Global partnerships

Helping communities in jeopardy

After IBM supercomputer Watson defeated former champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in a three-day Jeopardy! match, IBM donated US$500,000 in prize money to World Community Grid. This money was awarded to research scientists working on the following projects:

  • Help Fight Childhood Cancer: Chiba Cancer Center Research Institute and Chiba University in Japan
  • Discovering Dengue Drugs - Together: University of Texas Medical Branch and University of Chicago in the United States
  • FightAIDS@Home: The Scripps Research Institute in the US
  • Computing for Clean Water: Tsinghua University in China
  • Help Defeat Cancer: Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Rutgers University and University of Pennsylvania in the US
  • Help Conquer Cancer: Ontario Cancer Institute in Canada
  • Nutritious Rice for the World: University of Washington’s Computational Biology Research Group
  • The Clean Energy Project: Harvard University
  • Discovering Dengue Drugs – Together: The University of Texas Medical Branch

Watson’s appearance brought more than just the prize money, though. World Community Grid saw a 700 percent increase in registration, providing research scientists with an upsurge in available computing power.