Why every tourism company should sign up to the World Community Grid

Why every tourism company should sign up to the World Community Grid

For many of us in the northern hemisphere, August is a month when our computers finally lie idle, emails get bounced back with out of office replies, and we spend our time either relishing finally switching off from connectivity, or driving into the local village or up the nearest hill to try to get some signal.

Holiday time gives us a chance to recharge. More often than not, it is a period when – granted some time to switch off from day to day busy-ness – we actually get some proper thinking done. Freed of routine, we drift down unexpected avenues, potter along unknown routes, and stumble upon some of our most rewarding of discoveries as a result.

This happened to me earlier today, when I inadvertently discovered the World Community Grid and found what I believe offers an enormous opportunity for tourism businesses around the world to help solve many of the most pressing global problems – the likes of Zika, climate change and cancer. And this is a particular suitable solution for August as we can do this by doing almost nothing at all.

Little did I know, but the World Community Grid has existed since 2004. Co-ordinated by IBM, it is a vast, global, collaborative effort to create the world’s largest public computing grid to tackle scientific research projects that benefit humanity. And it is open to anyone – individual, organisation, multinational hotel chain, OTA, travel services company, or local five room B&B – to get involved. So long as you are connected to the internet (which if you are reading this, we can assume you are), and can spare a few minutes to sign up.

Since it launched, more than 2.3 million devices – including smartphones and tablets – belonging to over 600,000 individuals and organizations in 80 countries, have contributed their processing power into World Community Grid projects, resulting in one of the world’s fastest virtual supercomputers, which has provided scientists with the equivalent of more than 800,000 years of computing activity at absolutely no cost to them.

Many corporations have signed up as partners, offering the enormous computing power held within their offices to support these efforts. So far, however, according to the official list on the World Community Grid’s website, only one of these corporate partners works in tourism. Huge kudos therefore to Melia Hotels, who signed up back in 2013 and committed many of its computers to supporting both the Computing for Clean Water environmental project, and the Help Fight Childhood Cancer social project.

There are countless opportunities like this for travel companies looking to align themselves with important causes. This could make a real difference to issues like climate change and Zika that not only affect the wellbeing of the general population of the world, but threaten the viability of the tourism industry in many regions.

Offering our support is simple to implement, and can have a significant impact. As an article from late last month on Forbes.com reports on the current OpenZika project: “in the first two months of the study, more than 50,000 volunteers from all over the world have enrolled and donated the equivalent of over 4,000 years of computing time and performed more than 20,000 virtual experiments, saving researchers $1.5 million in equivalent computing resources.”

I’ve just signed up. It took me about a minute. I encourage anyone with an internet connection to join me. I’ve also created a group called ‘Responsible Tourism Grid‘, so that as tourism companies and individuals we can connect and build a stronger network together as an industry.

We are one of the biggest, most networked industries around. Our core purpose is to enable people across the world to enjoy much needed idle time. By supporting the World Community Grid we can use our many millions of computers’ idle time to help even more.

Jeremy Smith is the editor of sustainable tourism news site Travindy.com. Author of recently published Transforming Travel - realising the potential of sustainable tourism (2018). As well as writing a fortnightly blog for WTM's responsible tourism website, he works with responsible and sustainable travel businesses, developing their communications, brands, marketing and digital & social media strategy. He is co-author of Rough Guides' only guidebook dedicated to responsible tourism, Clean Breaks - 500 New Ways to See the World. Before that he was editor of The Ecologist, the world's longest-running environmental magazine. Travindy - https://www.travindy.com Latest book - cabi.org/bookshop/book/9781786394194

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