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IBM South Africa is encouraging South African businesses and individuals to sign up on the World Community Grid, a system of linked personal computers from volunteers who donate spare processing power for humanitarian projects. World Community Grid, founded and sponsored by IBM, provides researchers around the world with the equivalent of millions of dollars of free computational power to enable medical, nutrition, energy and environmental research. It’s currently being harnessed to help unlock new approaches to drug design for HIV/AIDS.

On World Aids Day as governments, NGO’s and communities globally highlight the continued need to develop treatment for those living with HIV AIDS, IBM has highlighted the impact that the World Community Grid could be playing in advancing humanitarian research.

World Community Grid is a system of linked personal computers from volunteers who donate spare processing power for humanitarian projects. World Community Grid, founded and sponsored by IBM, provides researchers around the world with the equivalent of millions of dollars of free computational power to enable medical, nutrition, energy and environmental research.

World Community Grid is a powerful example of IBM’s smarter planet vision in which systems from utility grids to healthcare can be made to work better, as a result of increased data, interconnected networks and greater embedded intelligence.

And the power and potential of World Community Grid is impressive.

By aggregating the unused cycle time of 1.5 million personal computers donated by hundreds of thousands of volunteers in more than 80 countries, World Community Grid is the world’s largest public humanitarian grid, equivalent in strength to one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. As of July 2010, World Community Grid provided the equivalent of about 400 teraFLOPS of speed, or 400 trillion floating-point operations per second.

IBM has collaborated with a wide spectrum of research partners and encouraged businesses, community groups and individuals to provide free computational capacity to support international humanitarian projects.

‚The Grid is about large scale volunteerism – utilising an individual’s unused computer capacity to address scientific problems – and in doing so accelerates research breakthroughs. This helps to make the world a smarter, better place,‚ says Tlale Mtshontshi, Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs Manager of IBM.

World Community Grid works when an individual’s computer is on but not in active use. It performs a small piece of complex scientific research, receiving and returning the results via World Community Grid. There is no need to leave an idle computer turned on, but while it’s active and a user takes a break for even a few seconds, World Community Grid harnesses the spare capacity. The accumulation of the idle time in short spurts from millions of computers is the equivalent of one of the world’s top 10 supercomputers.

World Community Grid is operated by IBM and provided for free to support not-for-profit humanitarian research projects. In total 14 projects are currently running or have completed their computational phase, involving teams of scientists from 35 research centres in six countries. Projects cover three big topics of Nutrition – Disease – Environment. These projects are contributing to five of the eight Millennium Development Goals.

IBM’s investment in World Community Grid has provided research scientists with over 252,000 years of computer run-time at no cost, and delivered over 290 million research results since 2004. It enables research which would not otherwise be possible because of the time it would take for the calculations to run on the scientist’s own computers. As a result scientists can focus on clinical work to develop the real world applications as opposed to IT, and by significantly accelerating research, develop new approaches and move more quickly into subsequent phases of testing.

More than 400 organisations are official partners of the WCG, and many thousands more teams have formed through the site. World Community Grid provides public and community organisations such as UNICEF, United Way and Aids Action Committee with a resource to generate public awareness and engagement around their own key issues. It also provides commercial organisations with another means for them and their employees to contribute to a variety of social issues.

For individuals, World Community Grid helps translate interest into awareness and engagement and promotes volunteerism. This collaborative technology enables people to contribute, altruistically or for deeper personal reasons. This is evidenced by the 200-250 new members who join each day, and by the level of dialogue IBM sees in this online community.

‚We’d like to encourage individuals everywhere to join with IBM so that more research can be completed even faster as part of this exciting, inspiring and innovative development initiative. And we also challenge the business world at large to sign up to World Community Grid and help grow its potential to achieve even greater impact on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the world’s most pressing needs.” Adds Mtshontshi.

To find out more, or to volunteer your computer go to http://www.worldcommunitygrid.org/

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