The current crisis generated by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has proven that social responsibility and community involvement have the power to help us get through such a difficult period. Companies from all around the world, regardless of their size or line of business, have joined forces to either support medical staff in their efforts to treat people affected by COVID-19 or find solutions to quickly rid the world of this virus.
By Anda Sebesi
Vodafone Romania is one of the most social involved company during this time of crisis, as through the Vodafone Romania Foundation, the company focused its social involvement during this period on three main segments: technology, healthcare, and education.
DreamLab app to help in the fight against COVID-19
Smartphone users are being encouraged to harness the collective processing power of their mobile phones to help speed up research into treatments for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) using the free DreamLab app, the result of a partnership between the Vodafone Foundation and scientists at Imperial College London. The app uses the combined processing power of smartphones to compute complex data much faster than it would be done traditionally.
The DreamLab app was originally developed by Vodafone Foundation Australia as an easy way for anyone to support cancer research while their phone is charging overnight. A new Corona-AI project has been launched on the app and will use the same technology to fight the coronavirus outbreak. Researchers believe that this work could speed up access to effective drugs and enable tailored treatments against this infectious disease. “We urgently need new treatments to tackle Covid-19. There are drugs out there that might work to treat it, but we need to do complex analyses using artificial intelligence to find out which molecule or combinations of molecules might be able to disrupt the virus when it’s inside the body. All of this takes a huge amount of computing power and DreamLab enables us to do this important work in a much shorter timeframe,” says Dr Kirill Veselkov from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London, who is leading the research.
The project is split into two phases: identifying uses for existing drugs and food-based molecules with anti-viral properties and optimising combinations of such drugs and molecules for improved efficiency against coronavirus infections.
While traditional experimental research and standard research methods could take years to develop, DreamLab’s cloud-based mobile processing approach can drastically reduce the time it takes to analyse the huge amount of existing data. A desktop computer running 24 hours a day would take decades to process this much data, but a network of 100,000 smartphones running overnight could do the same job in just a couple of months.
The app is available now in Romania, as well as Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, and the UK, with other countries to follow in the coming weeks. DreamLab is free to download from the App Store for iOS or Play Store for Android. In order for the app to work in Romanian, users must have this language set on their phones prior to downloading it. Once installed, the app will not eat into monthly data allowances. Vodafone Romania is supporting the DreamLab project by offering free national data for all Vodafone customers who use the app. No personal data is downloaded to or collected on the user’s device.
Healthcare and education at the core of efforts against SARS-Cov-2
During SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, The Vodafone Romania Foundation immediately got involved in supporting several initiatives, mainly in healthcare and online education, as well as digital platforms aiming to correctly inform the population, using official sources.
More specifically, the Vodafone Romania Foundation sponsored the acquisition of a testing machine and 5,000 tests for the triage center in Arad, to be used by Arad County Hospital, the DSP (Public Health Directorate) and ISJU (County Inspectorate for Emergencies) to test people coming into Romania via the Nadlac border. Additionally, the Foundation has bought medical equipment for the Marie Curie Hospital, consisting in 100 individual inhalers for the neonatology section, 50 air pumps, 5 air purifiers for larger spaces and 5 mini-inhalers. It also financed the acquisition of masks and protective equipment for the Victor Gomoiu Children’s Hospital in Bucharest and, through the Zi de Bine Association, for the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Brasov. Tablets and data allowances have also been financed for physicians from the Victor Gomoiu Children’s Hospital to help them communicate with medical staff from the Matei Bals Institute for Infectious Diseases. Last but not least, for the Matei Bals Institute, Vodafone Romania Foundation financed devices and contracts enabling patients in isolation to communicate with doctors while maintaining a safe distance.
As for education, children and teachers in Romania’s rural areas can continue their educational activities online, in an effective and interactive way, through the digital educational platform offered by the Vodafone Romania Foundation within the School in a Box programme. The Foundation has also partnered with CISCO, IBM, and World Vision to offer free Webex licenses to teachers for 180 days. With the help of this platform, teachers can hold remote classes in real time, through video conferences, with all their students.
Within one month of school closures, teachers had developed 1,800 online courses on the School in a Box platform, more than double compared to the previous 6 months of school. During this period, student activity was very intense, with about 2,300 hours spent on the platform, almost as long as the regular school period, which indicates that students’ interest in education has increased considerably. The type of devices used at home during this period has also changed, with over 65 percent of users accessing the platform through their mobile phones, compared to 33 percent before the pandemic.
Last but not least, the Vodafone Romania Foundation is also supporting the Cumparaturi la Usa Ta (Shopping at Your Door) initiative, developed by the Geeks for Democracy association, through which volunteers can help elderly or quarantined people by bringing them food and medicine. The Foundation has contributed by providing a call center, as well as phones and communication services enabling volunteers to take such calls.