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Using Big Data to combat dengue: Teradata interview

AvantiKumar | March 27, 2015
Teradata Malaysia's Craig Morrison talks to Computerworld on how Big Data will help tackle dengue outbreaks via an MDeC Big App winning project involving the Ministry of Health and MMU.

In a recent interview with Computerworld Malaysia, Craig Morrison, country general manager of data analytics giant Teradata Corporation Malaysia (Teradata) revealed details of the story behind Malaysian national ICT agency Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) moves earlier this year to position Malaysia as a regional Big Data Analytics (BDA) centre with the signing of three major industry deals. Under the agreements, Teradata and Fusionex were commissioned to build Centres of Excellence (CoE), while national agencies MAMPU and MIMOS would form a BDA DG Lab to grow a national Big Data Analytics ecosystem with the support of other major ICT companies.

As a brief follow up, Computerworld asked him for examples of how BDA was being used within the public-private partnership strategy in Malaysia. Morrison said the company helped the development of Dengue Index by working with Malaysia's Ministry of Health and Multimedia University (MMU). He said that this project uses BDA in understanding dengue outbreak patterns, which has reached "endemic" levels in parts of Malaysia in the last 12-24 months.

On 10 July 2014, Malaysia's health minister, Datuk Seri Dr S Subramaniam released a report that there have been 46,681 cases (a 246 percent increase from the previous year in the same period), with the number of deaths as 87, a 222 increase in dengue deaths compared to the same period last year. "There remain many breeding grounds (for Aedes mosquitoes), especially in hotspot localities. Some 90 percent of the 93 hotspots nationwide are found in Selangor, with the Petaling district reporting a higher number of incidents." In January of this year, the Health deputy minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya has confirmed a nationwide spike in dengue cases with 3,000 case across Malaysia in one week.

Craig Morrison - Teradata Malaysia 

Photo - Craig Morrison, Country General Manager, Teradata Corporation [Teradata] Malaysia


Could you give a little of the backstory on how Big Data analytics came into the picture to manage the recent dengue outbreaks in Malaysia?

MDeC held a Big Data App challenge in 2014.  They provided two datasets - weather data and summary dengue index data- and all participants were tasked to develop an application that would benefit the community.  We chose to utilise the data to produce a dengue index that would predict the likelihood of a dengue outbreak within an area within the next month.  As it was a competition the end product could be considered a POC [Proof of Concept], the model predicted the likelihood of a dengue outbreak with >80 percent confidence.

What role did Teradata play in developing the Dengue Index?

Teradata partnered with Multimedia University (MMU) and Ministry of Health's Dr Dhesi Baha Raja.  MMU assigned professors and students, while Teradata assigned a data scientist and provided the HW/SW [hardware and software] and Dr Dhesi provided the subject matter expertise.  All three parties brought unique skills and capabilities to the team.  

The challenge centred on correlations between dengue outbreaks and meteorological events, which are well known. However, these correlations remain as rule-of-thumb ('rainfall' - 'dengue'), or as complex models that are not communicated well to the public. There is a need for a central reference point which will alert the general public on the predicted danger of a dengue outbreak I their locale.

We aimed to develop a solution that can on one hand inform and educate the people on the current level of dengue threat and guide them to the right prevention steps, and on the other hand help the government to optimize the use of the vector control measures and improve the efficiency of prevention.

Malaysia's aspiration is being impeded by dengue to some extent. Dengue has been showing an upward trend and continues to peak despite the aggressive vector control measures taken by the Ministry of Health.

And what was the outcome?

Basically, the Teradata-MMU-MOH team was selected as the winner of MDeC's Big Data App challenge!

The Teradata MMU Team worked together to understand the factors that lead to dengue outbreaks and developed an index to forewarn communities, medical practitioners and authorities.

The data inputs included:

Industry Knowledge
- Advice from a public health practitioner on Dengue and mosquito incidence

  • Weather Data


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