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March 3, 2016updated 05 Sep 2016 7:56am

Google fights Zika virus with $1m grant and data analytics support for UNICEF

News: Funding and volunteer support will help map the spread of the disease.

By Alexander Sword

Google is deploying its search and analytics tools to combat the spread of the Zika virus, as the web giant reveals that search interest in the virus has risen 3000 percent since November.

As well as providing a grant of $1 million to UNICEF workers on the ground, the search engine giant will provide engineers to work with UNICEF to analyse their data and map and anticipate the spread of the virus.

The volunteer team will help UNICEF build a platform that will process data from a range of sources, including weather and travel platforms, to visualise data about potential outbreaks.

The open source platform ultimately aims to be able to identify the risk of transmission for different regions to improve the ability to focus time and resources.

While the Zika response is informing the prototype, Google says that the tool will be applicable in future emergencies.

It has also updated products to improve access to information by users of the search engine, meaning that extensive information about Zika has been added globally in 16 languages, as well as adding Public Health Alerts.

YouTube creators across Latin America have also been enlisted for the campaign, including Sesame Street and Brazilian physician Drauzio Varella.

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"As a company whose mission is helping people find information," Google wrote on its official blog, "with a lot of experience in analysing large sets of data, we’re in a good position to help — at scale and at speed."

The spread of the Zika virus has been declared a Public Health Emergency by the World Health Organisation. Health officials believe that it may be correlated with birth defects.


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