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Computer owners around the world are being encouraged to lend some of their PC power to an experiment on the spread of malaria in Africa.

CERN, the world-leading particle physics laboratory in Switzerland, launched the shared computing project [email protected] and its first application,, last week (13 July).

Volunteers can download the malaria computer program from the project's website ( While they perform their usual computing tasks, the program will run simulations of how malaria spreads in Africa.

Based on prior experience, the organisers expect to do in a few months with thousands of computers what would take 40 years to achieve using the computer power available in their labs.

[email protected] is similar to the project launched in 2003 to model future warming of the planet (see Scientists tap global computer power to probe climate).

At last week's launch, CERN's director-general Robert Aymar underlined the importance of sharing knowledge gleaned from such projects with Africa.

The Swiss team is working with researchers from the University of Bamako in Mali and the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie in Bamako and in Yaoundé, Cameroon, who have been funded by the Geneva International Academic Network.

The network has also awarded a grant to adapt the concept of shared computing time to other research tasks related to Africa and to train technical staff at African universities to create and manage their own volunteer computing projects.