The Zika virus continues to spread across South America and beyond, but unlike with other pandemics, identifying and mapping the outbreak has proven hard. Google today announced that it is now working with UNICEF to build a platform that aims to bring together data from different sources to map (and predict) potential outbreaks.
In addition, Google is now prominently surfacing information about the virus in its search engine and Google.org also today announced a $1 million grant to UNICEF to raise awareness and support the development of diagnostics and vaccines.
Google says it has a volunteer team of engineers, designers and data scientists who are currently working with UNICEF to build a new platform that will help the organization identify the risk of transmission and “help UNICEF, governments and NGO’s decide how and where to focus their time and resources.” While the tool currently focuses on Zika, the idea here is to build a platform that would also be useful for future outbreaks of other diseases.
“As a company whose mission is helping people find information, with a lot of experience in analyzing large sets of data, we’re in a good position to help—at scale and at speed,” Google.org director Jacquelline Fuller writes today. “So today we have Google engineers working with UNICEF to analyze data to determine how to map and anticipate the virus. We’ve also made some updates to our products to make Zika information more accessible, and we’re providing UNICEF with a $1 million grant to help their efforts on the ground.”
Google, of course, already surfaces a large amount of health data in the sidebar of its search results pages, but with today’s update, it will also feature more information about Zika in 16 languages. This includes a run-down of the symptoms the virus causes and public health alerts that will be updated with new information over time.
The company says it is also working with a number of popular YouTubers, including Sesame Street, to raise awareness about Zika and how to prevent it.