Accenture helps DHS scour social media for bio risks

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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said late last week it will spend $3 million over the next year with Accenture on a pilot program for social media analytics to identify, predict and respond to national health emergencies such as an infectious disease outbreak or a biological attack.

Accenture will work with the Office of Health Affairs, which is responsible for providing health and medical expertise to prepare for, respond to and recover from health security events, including biological threats to enhance its biosurveillance capabilities. The project also will help improve data sharing and collaboration between OHA and its partners.

Biosurveillance is the monitoring of public health trends and unusual occurrences, relying on pre-existing, real-time health data, which is publicly available and easily obtained. Accenture will take data from social networking and social media sites to help OHA better do its job.

John Matchette, lead for Accenture's Public Safety agency work, said social media platforms are finding their way into all forms of communication and that the information being shared will help OHA detect and respond to potential threats to national health security.

Accenture has worked with the Department of Homeland Security since its establishment in 2001. As part of the US-VISIT contract, (US-VISIT supplies the technology for collecting and storing biometric data, provides analysis, updates the DHS's watch list, and ensures the integrity of the data) Accenture assumed operational responsibility for the legacy Automated Biometric Identification System, or IDENT, the largest biometrics-based program in the world.

In July of this year, the White House issued its National Strategy for Biosurveillance. In it, President Obama said he, "committed the United States to new approaches to counter biological threats. Specifically, I called for 'obtaining timely and accurate insight on current and emerging risks.' Such biosurveillance--including early detection--is one of our first lines of defense against these threats."

For more:
- see the US-VISIT Biometric Identification Services site

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