Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

Google, Bottom of the Pyramid Markets and Global Health Solutions

google_n4b.jpg

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 Google.org, 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.org, 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
  • Google.org’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 (Google.org) 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.

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Written by Aman

March 21, 2007 at 2:35 pm

3 Responses

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  1. […] Google, Bottom of the Pyramid Markets and Global Health Solutions from THD Blog […]

  2. […] he helped develop and which was recently bought by Google (for related info to this, see our previous post on Google). Many people have seen the TED video, if you have not seen it, it is an absolute must watch (first […]

  3. […] of others in the business community. I previously blogged about Google’s foray into BOP markets that you can check out. In the second picture I have borrowed part of a screen shot from Class V. To see the full screen […]


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