Mon, Dec 31, 2012 - Page 9 News List

An optimistic assessment

By Bill Gates  /  SEATTLE

Those working on AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, family planning, nutrition and other global health issues can use the same platform, so that all parts of a country’s health system are sharing information and responding appropriately in real-time. This is the dream, but it works only if frontline workers are inputting data, health ministries are acting on it and patients are using the information that they receive on their phones.

I realized that things were taking off when our partners on Motech started talking about burdensome network costs and simplifying the user interface. The application was really being used in the field, and the stickiest challenges were presenting themselves — which meant that the system had proved that it was valuable enough for people to put in the work to solve problems as they arose, instead of just reverting to the old system.

A decade ago, people said that this would happen quickly. It did not, because the pieces just were not there. Now they are starting to come into place. It will take a decade to get certain applications into a lot of places, but the momentum will build and we will learn as we go. In the long run, the results will be just as transformative as we hoped, if not more so. Ultimately, when people are truly empowered, they will begin to use digital technology to innovate on their own behalf, building solutions that the established software-development community never considered.

Bill Gates is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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