Harness the world's PCs to fight disease

By   |  March 29, 2007

A workshop entitled “Volunteer Computing for Africa” will be organized at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Muizenberg near Cape Town, from July 16 to 22. Participants will be shown and gain hands-on experience of the open source software technologies behind distributed computing and cyber-volunteerism on the internet.

The purpose is to allow participants to implement these technologies so that they can harness the power of volunteer computers worldwide for their own research or to support research of their colleagues in universities and research labs across Africa. Travel expenses, board and lodging will be paid for all students accepted. (see aplication details below)

Volunteer computing is a powerful tool in combating some of the major humanitarian challenges faced by Africa. It also helps overcome the digital divide by putting African researchers at the centre of international humanitarian projects.

The workshop will focus on the volounteer computing platform BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing), which allows volunteer computers in homes and offices to run computer-intensive simulation programs.

This was made possible through the multi-stakeholder partnership called Africa@home. In its first phase, Africa@home provided computing power for the malaria modelling program run by MalariaControl.net.

The objective of the second phase of Africa@home is to use the BOINC technology for other computer applications, such as those linked to research about HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. It is this goal that the workshop will address.

Workshop Programme

Monday July 16: Introduction to the general aspects of volunteer computing, relevance to different scientific tasks, and client side of volunteer computing .

Tuesday July 17: Objective is for participants to familiarise themselves with a number of open source components used to run volunteer computing servers.

Wednesday July 18: Objective is step by step walk through of building client and server, including typical debugging issues.

Thursday July 19: Analyse and plan porting of a new project to volunteer computing.

Friday July 20: Review and test knowledge acquired during workshop, get feedback on suitability of workshop format, discuss next steps for participants.

Sat-Sun July 21-22 : Debriefing with AIMS, planning of future activities with AIMS, SACEMA and other Africa@home partners.

How to apply

Application forms are available at the ICVolunteers page, and should be sent in by May 15th.

Applications should include a CV and suitable academic recommendations to assist selection. Students should have programming experience and be familiar with both Linux and Windows environments. Preference will be given to candidates who will be able to return to their home institutes and teach and apply the technology there.

Travel expenses, board and lodging will be paid for all students accepted. Some assistance can be given for visa applications to South Africa for the duration of the workshop.

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