Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

Archive for the ‘Philanthropy’ Category

Social challenges

Update: Voting opened Monday and will close Friday 3pm Pacific time. We are expecting a high turnout. Your support will be critical. To cast a ballot voters need to select three projects.

NetSquared has a new social challenge “N2Y4“. Voting opens Monday and Melissa and I submitted a proposal called “ClaimsMobile” to the new competition. “ClaimsMobile” is a mobile phone and web database application for management of patients’ medical and financial information in a Uganda output-based healthcare project. We have been working with partners at the Mbarara University, the NGO Marie Stopes International Uganda, and small private clinics in the region. Check it out. Voting starts April 6th (Monday) 11 AM California time and runs for five days. If you like our idea, vote for it… and be sure to look through the range of amazing proposals – everything from education to international justice to community programs. The word cloud says it all.


There seem to be a lot of “social challenges” these days. In the past nine months, I’ve been asked to vote for a Peace Corps projects photo idea at NameYourDreamAssignment, a girls’ tuition fund in Burkina Faso, a geotourism project in Ecuador, a women in sport challenge, as well as support a handful of ideas among the 7875 proposals submitted to the popular Ideas for Change in America campaign; all hosted on platforms like Ashoka ChangeMakers, GlobalGiving, NetSquared, and

These challenges, like California ballot initiatives, work best if voters take the time to learn the issues. Spend some time to select projects from an area you know or have a great deal of interest – the NetSquare’s word cloud is a useful first step to sort ideas. If that fails, Stoltz at Web2…Oh Really recommends picking the project with the least votes… and I’ll close by suggesting “ClaimsMobile” for your short list.

Written by Ben

April 4, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Milwaukee: hub of water technology in global health?

It’s been more than two years since we reported on Seattle as the new Geneva, that is, as the new epicenter of global health activity. An article in this morning Journal-Sentinel (Water-engineering firms see potential, challenge in developing countries) – which includes an exclusive interview with the Acumen Fund’s chief executive Jacqueline Novogratz – suggests that Milwaukee is angling to do the same for water technology:

It’s an issue that almost certainly will preoccupy business leaders in metro Milwaukee in their strategy to brand the region as an international hub of water technology. The metro area is home to scores of water-engineering companies. Gov. Jim Doyle and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee this month announced plans to invest millions of dollars for UWM to become a center of freshwater research.

An 2008 article from the same newspaper (Area’s tide could turn on water technology) provides more evidence:

[F]our of the world’s 11 largest water-technology companies have a significant presence in southeastern Wisconsin, according to an analysis of data from a new Goldman Sachs report.

Wall Street has tracked automakers, railroads and retailers almost since there were stocks and bonds. But water remains a novelty. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. didn’t begin to research water treatment as a stand-alone industrial sector until late 2005.

While several large MNCs have shown an active interest in clean water in developing countries (e.g., Procter and Gamble, Vestergaard Frandsen, Dow) open questions remain as to what role large MNCs will play in providing access to safe water for the one billion people who don’t have it.

(Thanks to Dr. Jessica Granderson for sending the link)

Innovation as a Learning Process

Cross-posted from Design Research for Global Health.

The California Management Review recently announced the winners of the 2009 Accenture Award: Sara Beckman of Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and Michael Barry, founder of design consultancy Point Forward and Adjunct Professor at Stanford, for their article, Innovation as a Learning Process: Embedding Design Thinking (Fall 2007, Vol. 50, No. 1).

From the award website (which is still on the 2008 winner as I write this): “The Accenture Award is given each year to the author (or authors) of the article published in the preceding volume of the California Management Review that has made the most important contribution to improving the practice of management.”

The paper makes a compelling argument that innovation can be achieved by management and provides a model for cross-functional, cross-disciplinary teams to engage in this process. The relevance to global health as I’ve discussed before (really what this entire blog is about) is that the process can help us improve health systems through innovation.

The challenge in coming years will be how to get organizations and institutions working in global health – foundations, Ministries of Health, NGOs, development programs, health research centers, etc. – treating innovation as a way of working, not simply an input or an output.

The abstract/lead-in isn’t openly available online so I’m copying it here:

Companies throughout the world are seeking competitive advantage by leading through innovation, some — such as Apple, Toyota, Google, and Starbucks — with great success. Many countries – such as Singapore, China, Korea, and India — are investing in education systems that emphasize leading through innovation, some by investing specifically in design schools or programs, and others by embedding innovative thinking throughout the curriculum. Business, engineering, and design schools around the U.S. are expanding their efforts to teach students how to innovate, often through multi-disciplinary classes that give students a full experience of the innovation process. However, what does leading through innovation really mean? What does it mean to be a leader, and what does it mean to engage in innovation?

There is a vast literature on leadership covering a wide range of topics: the characteristics of a good leader, how leadership is best displayed in an organization, leadership and vision, authority, leadership styles, and so on. There is also a growing body of literature on innovation and its various facets, much of it focused by application of the innovation process. Hundreds of publications describe the process of innovation for products — both hardware and software — and a growing number of publications focus on innovation in services. Further, there are dozens of books on innovation in building and workplace design.

Here we examine a generic innovation process, grounded in models of how people learn, that can be applied across these sectors. It can be applied to the design and development of both hardware and software products, to the design of business models and services, to the design of organizations and how they work, and to the design of the buildings and spaces in which work takes place, or within which companies interact with their customers. The model has evolved through two streams of thought: design and learning.

This video, which seems to be unaffiliated to the authors, summarizes the article [correction - I just found out that Shealy did work with the authors on this video - Tues-24-Mar-2009 12:18PM PDT]:

[Innovation as a Learning Process from Roger H. Shealy on Vimeo]

Here are slides from Beckman and Barry’s presentation at the Inside Innovation 2007 Conference and the Google scholar view of who is citing this work.

[(Dis)claimer: Sara Beckman served on my dissertation committee and Michael Barry provided guidance on my applied research in Mongolia]

Why bad presentations happen to good causes

Cross-posted from Design Research for Global Health.

Giving talks is not one of my strong suits, but it seems to be a part of the job requirement.  Earlier this month, I had the opportunity (even though I’m no good, I do consider it an opportunity), to give a couple talks, one to the Interdisciplinary MPH Program at Berkeley and one to a group of undergraduate design students, also at Berkeley.  Despite the difference in focus, age, and experience of the two groups, the topic was roughly the same: How do we effectively use design thinking as an approach in public health?

The first session was so-so, and I suspect that the few people who were excited about it were probably excited in spite of the talk.  It started well, but about halfway through, something began to feel very wrong and that feeling didn’t go away until some time later that evening.  Afterwards, I received direct feedback from the instructor and from the students in the form of an evaluation.  I recommend this if it is ever presented as an option.  Like any “accident”, this one was a “confluence of factors”: lack of clarity and specificity, allowing the discussion to get sidetracked, poor posture, and a tone that conveyed a lack of excitement for the topic.

It’s one thing to get feedback like this, another to act on it.

top10causesofdeath-blogThe second session went much better, gauging by the student feedback, the comments from the instructor, and my own observations.  This in spite of a larger group (60 vs. 20) that would be harder to motivate (undergraduates with midterms vs. professionals working on applied problems in public health).  I chalk it all up to preparation and planning.  Certainly there are people that are capable of doing a great job without preparation – I just don’t think I’m one of those people.

Most of that preparation by the way was not on slides.  I did use slides, but only had five for an hour session and that still proved to be too many.  Most of the time that I spent on slides, I spent developing a single custom visual to convey precisely the information that was relevant to the students during this session (see image).  The rest of the preparation was spent understanding the audience needs by speaking to those running the class; developing a detailed plan for the hour, focusing on how to make the session a highly interactive learning experience; designing quality handouts to support the interactive exercise; and doing my necessary homework.  For this last one, I spent 20 minutes on the phone with a surgeon friend, since the session was built around a case study discussing surgical complications and design.

Three resources I found really useful:

  1. Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes, Andy Goodman, 2006. This commissioned report was developed to help NGOs with their presentations, but I think there is value here for anyone whose work involves presentations. It is evidence-based and provides practical guidance on session design, delivery, slides (PowerPoint), and logistics.  Most importantly, it is available as a free download. I was fortunate enough to pick up a used copy of the print edition for US$9 at my local bookstore, which was worth the investment for me because of the design of the physical book.  It’s out-of-print now and it looks like the online used copies are quite expensive – at least 3x what I paid – so I recommend the PDF.
  2. Envisioning Information, Edward Tufte, 1990. I read this when I was writing my dissertation. Folks in design all know about Tufte, but I still recommend a periodic refresher.  This is the sort of book that will stay on my shelf.  Also potentially useful is The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. For those working in global health, don’t forget how important the display of information can be: (a) Bill Gates and the NYTimes, (b) Hans Rosling at TED.
  3. Software for creating quality graphics.  The drawing tools built into typical office applications, though they have improved in recent years, are still limited in their capability and flexibility, especially if you’re looking at #2 above.  In the past 10 days, three people in my socio-professional network have solicited advice on such standalone tools, OmniGraffle (for Mac) and Visio (Windows): a graphic designer in New York, an energy research scientist in California, and a healthcare researcher in DC.  Both are great options.  I use OmniGraffle these days, though I used to use Visio a few years back.  If cost is an issue, there are open-source alternatives available, though I’m not at all familiar with them (e.g., the Pencil plug-in for Firefox).

Written by Jaspal

March 26, 2009 at 10:42 am

Vogue on Melinda Gates

Good read with insight into how Melinda Gates sets priorities for the Gates Foundation, also some fun tidbits with a more personal article, excerpts below (I should mention there has been some recent criticism of Melinda and the data she has cited on antimalarial efforts, see here and here):

Feb 2009, Vogue, Gates of Heaven

  • “without Melinda there would have been no Gates Foundation. She is the reason they focus so heavily on improving the health of the world’s neediest inhabitants.”
  • “You have to be humble in what we are doing, but you also have to be bold,” she says. “You have to ask yourself, Are we going to feed people or sit behind ivory towers and argue about how to do it? I want people to live and to survive, so we will get out there and try something. If it doesn’t work, we will try something else. And we will keep trying until we find something that works.”
  • “the philanthropy’s true power lies in its willingness to apply the merciless principles of the business world to charity.”
  • “There won’t be any Gates Foundation grants for National Public Radio or the Metropolitan Opera. (For that matter, the foundation does not fund research into heart disease, diabetes, or many types of cancer, either, despite the fact that those diseases kill millions of people in the developing world. They also happen to kill millions of people in the developed world, and that means governments and pharmaceutical companies have all the incentive they need to address them.) Instead, Bill and Melinda Gates focus on problems that nobody else seems to care about.”
  • “Melinda has become immersed in the financial-services issue, which she sees as an essential prelude to providing security and equality for women…“When a woman’s husband dies of AIDS in Malawi, she becomes the property of her brother-in-law,” Gates explains. “And he goes to collect all the assets. But they belong to her, and if she has the smart card, he will take it to the bank and demand the money. But the bank will say, ‘This is not your card; it’s not your account, because it’s not your thumbprint.’ He can’t get her money. And these cards,” she adds triumphantly, “have become so popular that they are the number-one wedding gift in the country.”

Written by Aman

February 20, 2009 at 5:52 pm

R&D Funding for Global Health Diseases

1. HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria Account for 80% of Disease Funding in Developing Countries, Report Says
2. More funds needed for lesser known tropical diseases, Link

The above two headlines on global health funding flows and allocation caught my attention. The original study was published in PLoS Medicine. The article has some great figures (some of which I have reproduced below). A few things immediately stick out – the amount concentrated on HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria is astounding. Second the US is providing 70% of the funding and on the surface one could argue that other countries really could be pitching in more. On that note, the Gates Foundation by itself is out funding the European Commission almost 4 to 1 – if that isn’t embarrassing I don’t know what is. Finally, the US Department of Defense is high on the list (surpassing USAID). Interesting stuff:

“HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria initiatives accounted for about 80% of the $2.5 billion that was spent on research and drug development for developing countries in 2007… However, pneumonia and diarrheal illness, which are two major causes of mortality in developing countries, received less than 6% of funding.”


Original Sources:

  • PLoS Medicine – Neglected Disease Research and Development: How Much Are We Really Spending? Link
  • WHO Top 10 Causes of Death, Link

Play it Forward

From Giving in a Digital World, read their full detailed post, excerpt below:
“Play It Forward (named after the movie, presumably) is a start-up that plans to launch a new online giving platform next month, offering individuals or groups of individuals the opportunity to fund specific projects around the world.

Ok. Sounds just like another Global Giving? However, Play It Forward looks like it’s going to have some special aspects to it that could make it stand-out as a distinctive player in the online nonprofit project crowdfunding world…” More here.

Written by Aman

February 16, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Donation Mapping Tool

The Partnership for Quality Medical Donations (PQMD) Mapping Tool, provides unprecedented access to information about the medical product donations being made…to the world’s most vulnerable populations. [Anyone] can easily determine where PQMD member donations are sent, find information on how the donations are being used by the communities who receive them and access a library of medical donation resources…” Source: Google Map Technology Enhances First Global Medical Donations Map


I was alerted to the newly launched donation mapping tool by Jessica over at GHP (Global Health Progress). Thanks to her I got to sit in on a presentation of the tool which I found fascinating (but not sure anyone else did based on the lack of questions in the audience). The tool is a mashup of Google maps and donation metrics globally (location, type of donation, organizations involved, what type of supplies, volume, staffing on the ground to name some). The goal is to help collaboration, answer questions and facilitate the process of identifying who is working where and what are they doing? Second they wanted to bring to life the impact of donations (places, faces and outcomes). Other things I took away from the presentation:

  • Massive unmet need for medical supplies. Poor infrastructure & distribution are key challenges
  • Donations are meeting up to 40% of health needs in some areas
  • PQMD has 27 members total (non cash EX US dollar volume was $4 Billion dollars, including non PQMD members)
  • Private sector + NGO + Academia combo mix: The tool was incubated at Loma Linda School of Public health and is a joint effort with PQMD and industry.

They have put a lot of work into this and I think they have lots of neat information. The data comes from primary and secondary data sources. For example they use actual donor member shipping records and augment that with onsite data collection, interviews and site visits on ground with facility staff (location, staffing, needs). The public view is different from the private view so as not to compromise security of the facilities. There is a lot more I could write about this, but I’ll stop here and let you play around with the tool yourself:

A few other things to note – the PQMD site has various interesting resources. Here are some more notes, and things to check out:

Have comments about the tool, leave them here:

Aug 15 Deadline: $150,000 for Stories of Change

I keep forgetting to put up a post on this, so here it is, close to the deadline. It will be great to see the film(s) that come out of this (hopefully global health related!):

Stories of Change: Social Entrepreneurship in Focus Through Documentary
“The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and the Skoll Foundation have partnered in a three-year initiative to explore how independent feature-length documentary film can advance knowledge about social entrepreneurship.”

“The Stories of Change Fund will consider independent feature-length documentary projects in all categories of development, production and post-production. Completed films are note eligible. Film projects must be completed by 2010. Grant awards will be made on a case-by-case basis and may range up to $150,000 US per film.”

Written by Aman

August 10, 2008 at 9:01 pm

Clean Water, Sanitation and Electricity Fundraiser

AIDG is a wonderful organization and they are having an event tomorrow in NYC. Please pass this onto your networks:

“The Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG) helps individuals and communities get affordable and environmentally sound access to electricity, sanitation and clean water.  Through a combination of business incubation, education, and outreach, we help people get technology that will better their health and improve their lives.”

Written by Aman

November 7, 2007 at 6:59 am

Forbes on Fixing Healthcare in Africa

Its great to see a generally conservative business magazine discussing positive, successful global health efforts in Africa. Forbes has 3 very recent pieces that are worth skimming. Again, this is yet another indication of increasing convergence of the social and business sectors that we had previously profiled (trends in global health coverage by the business press).

The Rwanda Cure: Success Stories
Forbes Oct 29.2007, link

Western do-gooders are pouring billions of dollars into ontrolling malaria, AIDS and other killers ravaging the world’s poorest continent. Now comes the hard part…Some of what sub-Saharan Africa needs is new technology, like a malaria vaccine. But what’s needed most, particularly in Africa, is better logistics.

“The hardest truth for people to come to terms with is that the practical solutions are already out there, but they are not being applied…Donors always want to do something new. The simple things aren’t so glamorous.” Full story 

In Pictures: Seven Ways To Fix Health Care In Africa
Follow this link 

HealthStore to expand to Rwanda, link
How do you get basic care to the remotest villages in Africa? One clever idea is to borrow tactics from retail chains like McDonald’s and Subway–operate an easy-to-replicate, owner-operated franchise system focusing on health care.With a budget of under $1 million a year, HealthStore Foundation subsidizes nurses in rural areas to run 65 for-profit retail clinics in Kenya that provide basic treatments for malaria, respiratory infections and worms.

Nurses pay about $300 to buy a clinic, and sell medicines for a modest profit at a retail price of $1. The 65 clinics run under the name CFW Shops and treated 400,000 patients last year. Many are run by retired nurses lured back to work by the prospect of owning their own business.
Full story here.

Written by Aman

October 16, 2007 at 8:49 am

MTV Launches Activist Network

Here is a new site by MTV – They have various videos and links that of course feature artists and also non-artist involvement. MTV can clearly be a powerful motivator, their engagement is interesting and a testament to the hipness of being involved in social causes or at least giving that perception. Let’s hope this does well and gets a younger generation mobilized, screen shots and description below (along with a Jay Z video of him at the UN, click on the picture):

“NEW YORK (Reuters) – Viacom Inc’s MTV will launch a new Internet social network sponsored by foundations operated by the founders of Microsoft and AOL to encourage youth activism….It will let users create pages, as on other online social networks Facebook and MySpace, and upload photos and videos, some of which may be aired on MTV’s online or cable network.” Full story here: MTV to launch activism social network

Jay Z on his issue – Water:

The web site:

Written by Aman

September 30, 2007 at 7:43 pm

Another Billionaire for Global Health

As we have discussed before on this blog, philanthropy is becoming a major influence in the global health arena unlike at any other time in our history (see a previous post on the Gates Foundation here and the recent influx of over $250 Million for global health education here). Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York and multi-billionaire, may be aiming to ramp up his philanthropic efforts after he leaves office. Health related excerpts from the news release below:

“Estimates of Bloomberg’s wealth range from $5.5 billion to more than $13 billion, and his riches would multiply if he sold the financial information company he founded…Some of last year’s $165 million went toward starting a worldwide campaign he announced last year against smoking, a health concern he says is often overlooked in philanthropy. He has pledged $125 million over a few years for the cause…”

“Aides said he is set to announce a $9 million gift to the World Health Organization over the next two years to prevent traffic fatalities. They are a leading cause of death among young people in low- and middle-income countries and one more cause that does not get a lot of philanthropic attention…Some of his largest personal gifts have gone to The Johns Hopkins University. In 2006, he also gave $100 million for medical research and a new children’s hospital…” Full story.

Written by Aman

September 16, 2007 at 6:26 pm

Posted in Philanthropy

Creative Mapping for Global Issues and Google Mashup “Action Planet”

I just discovered Maplecroft Maps that can filed under – awareness building via visual data representation. What is really cool about their maps, besides the tremendous breadth of issues they cover, are the additional resources linked to the map. For example, when you click on a map there are several tabs for: case studies, analysis and resources. Very cool stuff:

Maplecroft maps is a highly visual, web-based resource which contains detailed country information for over 200 states and maps for key issues significant to business and society. This innovative tool is designed to raise awareness amongst corporations, government and non-governmental organizations, academics, students and the general public of how an organisation’s operations interact with wider society, and how the risks and opportunities generated can be responsibly managed through stakeholder engagement and partnership.


“More than 30 different issues are already available…a number of the more recent maps were developed in partnership with the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Network… Some of the maps are for:carbon resources, climate change, corporate governance, greenhouse gas emissions, natural disasters, pandemics, renewable energy use, aid, child labour, digital inclusion, displacement, education, HIV/AIDS, landmine risk, malaria, military expenditure, political risk, poverty, tuberculosis and water.” Check out their website.

Second, from what I understand, students at Stanford’s Design school came up with in four weeks, which is a mash up of Google maps and GlobalGiving. Action Planet connects your issue of interest with a project in need. If you want to see another kind of “mashup” check out CNN’s site IMPACT (Impact your world) which was recently covered by Lucy Bernholz (she coined this type of technology meets philanthropy as “cross platform embedded giving“). A description of Action Planet can bee seen below.


Written by Aman

July 10, 2007 at 5:57 am

Fair Trade Photography Battles ‘Development Pornography’


“Upwards of 90% of the images of the majority world that are seen in the western media are produced by white photographers from the USA or Europe. This results in a one dimensional view often driven by a negative news agenda or the need to raise money.”

“Recognizing everybody’s communication rights in the information society is not mere slogan or campaign; it’s an integral part of social justice.” [Photos and quotes from fair trade group - Kijiji Vision site]

In the past month there has been a slate of news from Reuters, MSF and others, surrounding imagery and how western media portrays the world. Imaging Famine is about media representations and was mentioned this week by a Reuters blog. This is nothing new, but the debate is good, and as the Reuters piece points out, they have covered the issues surrounding ‘development pornography‘ previously. Another Reuters writer also picked up on this entire theme: Viewing the poor through Western eyes, I recommend the short read below and checking out the Kijiji/Majority World websites-

Part of the reason for this kind of post-colonial choreography by INGOs is because they are still required to be the visual mediators of the poor world to the rich world. In Western society, our INGOs are inter-cultural gatekeepers. And you would often have for example, the young white INGO nurse talking passionately on television beside starving children…Full story.

The above Reuters piece mentions Kijiji Vision, who were the guests for MSF’s Spring series on the Ethics of Imagery. Kijiji supports and promotes indigenous photographers and has a separate site for purchasing photos, check out Majority World. Two other bits of related content from this week. First, Buffett (son of Warren) donated $730,000 to the journalism school at Nebraska to help student photojournalists record the wants of the world. And finally Together TV (yet another video outlet) has launched more video “in their own words”.


Written by Aman

May 9, 2007 at 5:15 am

Google, Bottom of the Pyramid Markets and Global Health Solutions


I just read that Google is logging into rural India: “The latest company to seek a fortune in India’s rural markets is Google.” (3/21 news release).

You might ask what does this have to do with health? Well, on the surface, nothing. However, there are three significant reasons to pay attention to this. First, “bottom of the pyramid” (BOP) markets are all the rage right now, and Google’s most recent entry is significant, in part just because of who Google is and more interestingly because of who they are becoming. This coincides with the “Next 4 Billion” book release and if you haven’t heard about the BOP book launch, you would be remiss in not checking it out. BOP has strong implications/promise for healthcare delivery, as Kevin Jones from Xigi states: “half of BOP health care spending is on pharmaceuticals, much higher than in more affluent countries. This is especially the case in rural areas, where access to clinics is often limited.” It is too early to assess the impact, but for those of you unfamiliar, there is a growing drumbeat and unmistakable energy surrounding this concept. NextBillion, CTP and AIDG have all covered this watershed moment.

Second, Google is already in the health and development space. Most obviously they created, which is headed by Larry Brilliant (formerly of Seva). This is significant because Larry is not your run of the mill public health or public sector type guy. He is a physician and internet/technology entrepreneur who has a strong understanding of BOP markets as he was an integral partner with the non-profit Aravind Eye Care System (often mentioned as a success story by CK Prahalad in BOP discussions). For more information on Larry Brilliant’s colorful past, see Google’s Brilliant Philanthropist and for a more in-depth bio check out the “Epic Story of Larry Brilliant”.

Third, besides, Google Inc is now getting involved in the information and development game. This week they announced their purchase of Trendalyzer, the software used to power Gapminder which was made “famous” by international health professor – Hans Rosling. If you haven’t seen the application of this software, you are really missing out.

Not only have they purchased Trendalyzer, there also have been rumors for a while that Google is going to launch some sort of health portal or products targeted at domestic healthcare. See Google’s own blog post from Nov 2006 on this issue. On a related background note, for those who are not aware, all the major technology giants, Microsoft, Intel, IBM, etc. have already made formal forays into the health space.

The business and philanthropic products of Google suggest a strong convergence:

  • Google’s growing presence in India (the CEO has said it will be the internet’s #1 market) , as well as parts of Africa – this week they just inked a deal with Rwanda and Kenya
  • Focus on rural markets (news release above)
  • Rumored development of a mobile phone
  •’s mission to gather data on the ground (e.g. via SMS mobile) to inform outbreaks and create an early warning detection system

These together could offer a synergistic platform and suite of products for global health solutions. The Google founders have said that they hope that the Google Foundation ( one day eclipses Google Inc. They haven’t said if the above acquisitions and partnerships are strategically aligned with this vision, but these actions might indicate they really mean this.

I am not an expert on the pure philanthropic or internet technology side, but for more information on business and non-profit convergence and philanthropy in general I highly recommend the Philanthropy 2173 blog. Now all I have to do is get a job at Google to get the inside scoop.

Written by Aman

March 21, 2007 at 2:35 pm

Open Architecture prize follows a long tradition

The IP Health listserv carried an interesting announcement today though far from unique when I searched a bit from Google and Technorati. There’s a new $250k prize in Architecture for development applications. The first winner was announced at the final day of the TED 2007 conference last week. Follows up nicely on the design movement captured in the book Design Like You Give a Damn also put out by Architecture for Humanity. IP Health also carried an interesting research note by Benjamin Krohmal at KEI. The short history of prizes provides an intriguing list of the brilliant and sometimes bizarre conundrums humanity set out to solve with cash incentives over the past 400 years. The Economist wrote at length about the topic in their March 1st issue too. Finally an interview on the project with Cameron Sinclair with several screen shots can be read at Inhabitat (an interesting site if you haven’t already checked it out). among many news outlets reported on the architecture prize:

SUNNYVALE, CALIF. — March 9, 2007 –Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (NYSE: AMD) and Cameron Sinclair, winner of last year’s TED Prize and founder of Architecture for Humanity, today announced the first ever Open Architecture Prize at the annual TED Conference. The $250,000 Open Architecture Prize is the largest prize in the field of architecture and is designed to be a multi-year program that will draw competition from design teams around the world. Each year, a winning design will be selected from a field of low-cost, sustainable design projects and built in a selected community. The first project for the Open Architecture Prize will be an “e-community center,” a centralized building equipped with internet connectivity solutions designed to enable an entire community to access the transformative power of the Internet. The winning designs will be built as part of the prize and in alignment with the 50×15 Initiative, a program founded by AMD to connect 50 percent of the world’s population to the Internet by 2015.

“The Open Architecture Prize delivers on Architecture for Humanity’s vision of encouraging collaboration and challenging designers to reach beyond the traditional bounds of architecture to develop innovative solutions that improve global living conditions,” said Dan Shine, director of the 50×15 Initiative, AMD. “The creative designs developed in this competition will contribute to the 50×15 Initiative’s ambitious goal of connecting 50 percent of the world’s population to the Internet by 2015.”…

About 50×15
The 50×15 Initiative, launched by AMD in 2004 at the World Economic Forum, is a far-reaching effort to develop new technology and solutions that will help enable affordable Internet access and computing capability for 50 percent of the world’s population by the year 2015. More than just goodwill, 50×15 is about fostering long-term economic progress and investment within high-growth markets in ways that benefit a wide range of people and businesses. For more information, visit www.50×

About Architecture for Humanity
Architecture for Humanity is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that seeks architectural solutions to humanitarian crises and provides design services to communities in need. Currently it involved in the reconstruction of homes on the Gulf Coast, rebuilding after the South Asia Tsunami and the construction of healthcare facilities in Sub-Saharan Africa. For more information, please visit

About the Open Architecture Network
The Open Architecture Network is an online, open source community dedicated to improving living conditions through innovative and sustainable design. For more information please visit:

Written by Ben

March 13, 2007 at 12:47 pm


First congrats to the folks at “Little Devices that Could”, their organization, Aerovax, was nominated for the prestigious Tech Museum Awards. You should definitely check out their site. I am under water right now and would love to post in more depth about several of the following links, but that is not going to happen, so a link drop will have to suffice. Enjoy:

  • What a U.N. Partnership with Big Business Could Accomplish“, HBS, Link
    • For a review of the recent UN Silicon Valley meeting check out NextBillion, Link
    • And related to the high tech/ICT industry, Amartya Sen on ICT for good, Link
  • New book out on foundations: “How Private Wealth is Changing the WorldLink
  • Tactile Philanthropy has an interesting post on the impact of the Private/For-Profit sector on Non-Profits, quote “Market based solutions are great when they are appropriate, but they aren’t always appropriate.” Link
  • Purdue to show low-cost AIDS-testing technology to African officials, Link…”The current cost for CD4 tests per patient in Africa is about $10…We can build a device that will reduce the cost for CD4 tests to 50 or 25 cents.”
  • A list of new technologies for the developing world (via LittleDevices), Link
  • Technology from the U of Delaware removes viruses from water, significant because viruses are the “smallest of pathogens”, Link
  • GlobaLab on the new “revolutionary product to treat malaria” – the launch of ASAQ, a $1 drug Link
  • Social enterprise podcasts and downloads, Link
  • Italy : ‘Go-India’ Fund for SMEs – $600 Million Fund, Link
  • Female Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries, purchase req’d, Link
  • CDC and Second Life: There is a debate on the internal CDC message boards on CDC and SL, Link… For those who don’t believe in Second Life, the Amercian Cancer Society raised $40,000 (real money). More detail on CDC in SL, check out the pictures here and check out the Social Marketing blog.
  • On the media front, “The Blood of Yingzhou District”, a Chinese AIDS film won the Academy Awards for best documentary, Link
  • “Forget Davos, I am booked for TED”, Business Week, Link
    Michael Schrage, co-director of the MIT Media, no longer attends TED because he is worried about bumping into Angelina Jolie there, she and TED are apparently not good enough for him, read the article.
  • Setting up a “low” cost health information system in Spain, Microsoft Blog, Link
  • Low tech solution for preventing airborne disease– open the window! Link
  • Building Capacity – S.African Scientists Train In Latest Drug Discovery Techniques At Emory University, Link
  • Netherlands provides health insurance for 115,000 Nigerians, via Sociolingo
  • Final, random link of the day – Want to see what 60,000 plastic bags looks like? That is the number used in the US every five seconds. Link

Written by Aman

March 6, 2007 at 7:07 am

ICT & Health Education: iTunes for Bioethics, MySpace for Darfur, Vietnam Radio for HIV

There are three examples this week of using various information and communication technologies (ICT) for global health issues that are worth highlighting. These examples use the:

  • power of online social networks,
  • organizing tools of iTunes, and the
  • reach of radio programming

And if you want to check out an NGO that is helping develop and disseminate locally created and driven educational radio content, visit Equal Access.

1) Highschool students raise dollars for Darfur via MySpace (Link)
Two highschool students are attempting to raise $200k for Darfur by organizing fundraising events via MySpace and Facebook. More on the story at the epidemiology blog – Aetiology. Various non profit organizations and cause driven profiles have jumped onto MySpace and there is even the MySpace Impact Awards for people who have had a positive impact on culture. Each award comes with $10,000 and promotional ad space. This is a great way to reach people, however, I am wondering if (really when) there will be a saturation point at which social online networks such as MySpace (or blogs even) are so numerous that people become weighed down and desensitized to educational/cause advertising and fundraising efforts. This seems like a really nifty idea, the student website states – “There are over 27,000 high schools in the United States. If each school raised just $50, we could raise over one million dollars!” It is great to be around young folks because of their energy, creativity and optimism.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Aman

February 7, 2007 at 2:45 pm

The Power of an Idea: Using ICT to Help Iraqi Healthcare – Donations Needed!

There have been two recent interesting stories about helping Iraqi medical professionals. Before I begin, please see the request for donated medical textbooks at the end of this post. The first story is about an ICT non-profit in San Francisco that is helping equip (with computers) and wire up 19 teaching hospitals in Iraq. The organization, Wired International, was founded in 1997 with a mission to provide “medical and healthcare information, education and communications resources to communities in developing and post-conflict regions”. They seem to have achieved both scale and scope, since that time they have 76 information centers in 11 countries that serve 1 million year. Now they are getting involved in Iraq:

News Release, Jan 27, 2007 -
“Thanks to communication Professor Gary Selnow and his dedicated band of volunteers, Iraq’s medical schools are no longer without critical telecommunications and access to global databases. After equipping medical information centers at 19 Iraqi teaching hospitals, Selnow and WiRED, the nonprofit he founded to do this work, finalized arrangements to equip an additional 20 centers throughout the war-torn country. For the first time since Saddam Hussein cut off communications between Iraqi doctors and the rest of the world, faculty and students have the technology to consult with colleagues in other countries and tap such critical information sources as those at the World Health Organization.” (State Department press release can be found here)

The second story has to do with an almost accidental wide scale mission to supply Iraqi clinicians with up to date medical textbooks and journals. The doctor who started this never expected so much support. It is a neat story that is worth reading. DONATIONS are still needed, please pass the word (info on donations is at the end):

The Power of an Idea: Help for Iraqi Medical Professionals, Excerpts from Medscape:
Nearly 3 years ago I learned from my son, then in Iraq with the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, that the medical college in Tikrit had virtually no teaching or research library. I also learned that, for historical reasons, Iraqi medicine has been taught in English since Iraq was a British protectorate following World War I. My initial reaction was to seek a few donated copies of textbooks from distributors and publishers for them…

After publishing this first Medscape article, donations from Medscape readers began to be sent…Thus began a totally volunteer project that has no formal name, no budget, and no staff, but that has met with astounding success… The influence of the Internet is such that the AMA’s American Medical News, the Associated Press, the newsletter of the American Medical Library Association, and others have subsequently publicized the program, bringing in new interest and offers to donate.

The true heroes of this story are the American military personnel who have volunteered to receive and distribute donated publications…What has also become apparent is that there is at least equivalent heroism among the Iraqi medical professionals who struggle with limited resources to provide the best possible care to their patients. Donations now far exceed 200,000 textbooks and nearly a half million professional journals.

***Donations Still Needed: Please Help***
The need for medical publications remains largely unmet. Our contacts in the region describe the situation clearly: “This area has very competent physicians and healthcare providers who simply lack the necessary supplies and resources to perform at their true potential. They do a fantastic job with extremely limited resources and anything that can be done to help them is a true blessing. Clinics and hospital are very short on modern books and recent journals.”

Iraqi medical training and practice is modern although severely strapped for resources. Their needs are for contemporary publications, both texts and journals. The Iraqi Ministry of Health has requested that donated text editions have publication dates no earlier than 2000 or, for journals, nothing published prior to 2002. Primary care materials are very useful in community clinics. Specialty materials are extremely scarce in the hospitals and teaching institutions and will also be well received. Pharmacy, physical therapy/rehabilitation materials, dental, and veterinary publications are useful with no language barrier to understanding.

Please contact David B. Gifford, MD at dgifford at for up-to-date information about how and where to send donated medical publications and medically related materials.

Other sources: Michael Yon

Written by Aman

January 31, 2007 at 6:18 am

Negotiating two noble goals – ‘access to essential medicines’ vs. ‘pharma innovation’

Novartis has asked for clarification on a set of patents related to Gleevac, a leukemia drug. Today’s New York Times describes the battle between Novartis and Indian generic drug manufacturers in an article entitled, Battle Pits Patent Rights Against Low-Cost Generic Drugs.

Most of you are probably very familiar with the ongoing debate pitting further pharmaceutical innovation against access to essential medicines. This article does not resolve this issue, but it does provide further evidence that international agreements on IP rights have emboldened ‘big pharma’. At issue here is breakthrough vs. incremental innovations of pharmaceuticals. According to the article,

It would also effectively tighten patent legislation passed by India in 2005 to limit the manufacture of generic drugs. The law was intended to bring India in line with the World Trade Organization’s agreement on intellectual property rights.

The 2005 law allows patents to be granted on new versions of older, off-patent medicines if the new version can be shown to represent a significant improvement on the original, but not in the case of “incremental innovations.”

According to Novartis the new version allows for better absorbtion into the body over previous and off patent versions of the leukemia drug. John Gilardi states “If there is no patent protection, we will not see billions of dollars being invested in the research of medicines,”. But, monetary investment aside, at what point does expanding the protections on intellectual property decrease incentives to innovate. Without in depth familiarity of the case, it seems the Indian court ruled that the new version did not represent a significant incremental innovation. The issue of patent violation was never seriously on the table.

Novartis already gave free supplies of Gleevac to 6,800 patients in India suffering from the rare form of leukemia that it was developed to combat. He [John Gilardi] said that number represented more than 90 percent of all the cases in the country.

Donations as a model does not represent a sustainable solution to the “access to essential medicine” problem. Yet, it has been and continues be trumped as a possible model for mitigating the problem. See Making Sight Affordable (Part I): Aurolab Pioneers Production of Low-Cost Technology for Cataract Surgery for a discussion of this issue for intraocular lenses.

Written by Mahad Ibrahim

January 30, 2007 at 12:51 am

Desk Clearing: Social Capitalist Awards, Gates Foundation, Mobile Phones as a Human Right and more…

It’s time to do some housekeeping, there are several interesting stories this week that you will find below. Also do not forget to vote for the 59smartestorgs online.


  • Fast Company has another issue devoted to the Social Capitalist Awards with several articles. Link
  • More on the Gates Foundation story, it looks like they have decided to stick to their guns. WorldChanging haswritten extensively on this, check it out (Transforming Philanthropy) and Philanthropy 2173 is asking you to vote on this issue. For the LA Times article see the link below:
  • Gates Foundation to keep its investment approach. Link
  • Are mobile phones a human right? Link
  • RH Reality Check has a posting about the US lack of support for UNFPA, an issue taken up by an impressive grass roots campaign, known as 34 Million Friends. You can view a video here.

Pharmaceutical & Device Developments/Breakthroughs

  • A Real-World AIDS Vaccine? Link
  • Researchers Discover Drug That Blocks Malaria Parasites. Link
  • Nigeria to enact law to back malaria, HIV drugs. Link
  • Roche Diagnostics Submits West Nile Virus Blood Screening Test to FDA. Link
  • This is a very cool story about the discovery of forgotten “cures”.
    Ancient Book of Herbs Used in the War on Bacteria. NY Times link, via MedGadget.
  • For another take on the “Ethical Pharmaceuticals” Model, check out this lengthy piece.

Written by Aman

January 19, 2007 at 7:10 am

Update: Gates Foundation to reassess investments

LA Times, January 11, 2007

In a significant change, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Wednesday that it would review its investments to determine whether its holdings were socially responsible. The David & Lucille Packard Foundation and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, both among the nation’s 10 largest, said Wednesday that they too were reevaluating their investments to assess social and environmental effects.

Using the most recent data available, The Times found that hundreds of Gates Foundation investments — totalingP at least $8.7 billion, or 41% of its assets, not including U.S. and foreign government securities — have been in companies that countered the foundation’s charitable goals or socially concerned philosophy.

“When the No. 1 foundation is rethinking something, others are going to look at it more carefully,” “This will cause a seismic shift in the field.”

Written by Aman

January 11, 2007 at 7:58 am

Posted in Philanthropy

Dark cloud over global health work of Gates Foundation

There is an article in the LA Times today discussing the tension between ethical stock investment choices and the mission of philanthrophy at the Gates Foundation. The article tone is decidely one-sided against investments the Gates Foundation has made and seems to equate their investments in, for example, pharmaceutical and industrial companies in “the South”, with the deeds of particular projects of those companies (pollution, extremely high priced drugs and extended patent protection in developing countries, etc.). I find this insinuation a bit ridiculous and while I do not disagree with the overall point and ideals on which this article is based, the issue is much more complicated than discussed. Nevertheless, it is an interesting article with some good points:

January 7, 2007 – Dark cloud over good works of Gates Foundation
By Charles Piller, Edmund Sanders and Robyn Dixon

“Ebocha, Nigeria — Justice Eta, 14 months old, held out his tiny thumb. An ink spot certified that he had been immunized against polio and measles, thanks to a vaccination drive supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. But polio is not the only threat Justice faces. Almost since birth, he has had respiratory trouble. His neighbors call it “the cough.” People blame fumes and soot spewing from flames that tower 300 feet into the air over a nearby oil plant. It is owned by the Italian petroleum giant Eni, whose investors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”

“The Gates Foundation has poured $218 million into polio and measles immunization and research worldwide, including in the Niger Delta. At the same time that the foundation is funding inoculations to protect health, The Times found, it has invested $423 million in Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Total of France — the companies responsible for most of the flares blanketing this [Nigerian] delta with pollution, beyond anything permitted in the United States or Europe. Indeed, local leaders blame oil development for fostering some of the very afflictions that the foundation combats.

“The foundation has gotten much more in financial gains from its investments in the polluters than it has given to the Durban microbicide study to fight AIDS…Just as the Gates Foundation investments in Mondi, BP and Royal Dutch Shell have been very profitable, so too have its holdings in the top 100 polluters in the United States…”

“Microsoft monopolies in computer operating systems and business software depend upon the same intellectual-property and trade-law approaches favored by drug companies…’The Gates Foundation is in a position to change the dynamic, to make sure that drugs get first to the places they are most needed,’ said Daniel Berman, of Doctors Without Borders. “But it conflicts with the interests of Microsoft.”

Full Article

UPDATE: It was just brought to my attention that Busby over at the HIV politics blog felt similarly to myself and the first comment by Jose below. He states in part: “So, the LA Times has a semi-hatchet job on the Gates Foundation today, basically lambasting the Foundation for investing in companies that are socially irresponsible… something in the piece strikes me as an effort by the journalists to go after the Gates Foundation because they can and because the Foundation has gotten far too much good press. I guess I’m bothered by the effort to cherry-pick a handful of examples just to make the Gates Foundation look bad.” Read the full post here: “Semi-Hatchet Job on Gates Foundation in LA Times“.

Written by Aman

January 7, 2007 at 8:22 pm


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