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Using Personal Computers to Solve Humanitarian Problems

The World Community Grid is joining together individual personal computers to create massive processing power.   The technology is helping reduce research time from years to months. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

A project called the World Community Grid has found a way for computers connected to the Internet to help solve humanitarian problems. The World Community Grid is making technology available to public and non-profit organizations to use in humanitarian research.

Scientists at the University of Washington, for example, are using the technology to study ways to improve the nutritional value of rice. Another research project supported by the World Community Grid is studying mathematical ways to design drugs to treat the disease AIDS. Other projects are studying cancer. And still others are studying climate change in Africa.

The success of the World Community Grid depends upon individuals collectively donating their extra computer power. This is based on the idea that most computers are inactive most of the time. During these times they are not used, they can help solve complex scientific or engineering problems.

The IBM corporation started the World Community Grid more than two years ago. The company continues to provide advice and support to the project. Stanley Litow heads community relations for IBM. He says anyone in the world with a computer connected to the Internet can join the project.

Volunteers download a program from the World Community Grid Web site. Every so often, the program uploads results or downloads more information to be processed. Individuals can also find out how much work their computer power has done on the Web site.

Currently, about one million personal computers in one hundred countries are involved in the World Community Grid. Mister Litow hopes that another million computers will join the project. Then, he says, the World Community Grid will become the world’s largest super computer able to do many projects a year.

Any researcher can sign up to use the grid’s super computing power. However, all findings from the studies must be made public. Mister Litow says not only is the technology free. But he says it will also lead to more knowledge and valuable scientific discoveries.

And that’s the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jill Moss. You can find a link to the World Community Grid and transcripts of our reports at I’m Steve Ember.