Category Archives: Healthcare and Education

The U.N. discusses mandating the Right to Water

waterwell

Today’s San Francisco Chronicle has a wonderful story about the U.N. considering mandating the right to water.

This is in part a response to water riots in Bolivia, Mali, Uruguay, Argentina and South Africa where the governments were unable to anticipate or explain unusually high water rates brought on by privatization of water services.

While private industry is critical to better purification and delivery systems, water must remain a public resource so as to prevent its exploitation. Classifying water as a human right would send the right message – that Governments have an obligation to allocate adequate resources that provide equal access to water for all their citizens.

Enshrining water as a right sounds innocent. But it carries multiple implications. On one level, such a right would put nations on notice to upgrade water systems to make sure all their citizens have access. It’s an inarguable ideal for a human necessity.

Poor nations, the real audience for the water-as-a-right campaign, have experienced a confusing spin cycle of rich-country ideas. First, foreign aid failed to improve water deliveries, as weak governments weren’t up to the task of rebuilding. Then a new wave of aid from the World Bank and the United Nations came with a condition: Here’s the money, but it needs to be handled by private companies with the management and experience to pull off an infrastructure rebuild.

source:  Is there a right to water?, San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, December 26, 2008

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Filed under Democracy, Governance and Activism, Healthcare and Education

Dial 1298 for a World-Class Ambulance Service in Mumbai

How do you provide a city like Mumbai and its 22 million residents an efficient Ambulance service? The Acumen Fund’s Sasha Dicheter, talks about their latest investment, “Dial 1298” service with its 51 ambulances, each fitted with intensive care service combining world-class operational skills with a social mission.

Patients who want to go to a private hospital in a full-service ambulance – staffed with a doctor – pay 1,500 rupees (about US$35). Those who go to public hospitals pay either half price or nothing. 1298’s leadership is committed to having 15-20% of the company’s calls be serviced free or at reduced cost. This simple logic takes away the cumbersome process of identifying who can afford to pay and who cannot.

As such, anyone in Mumbai who needs ambulance service can dial 1298 and, thanks to the magic of GPS and Google Maps, one of 51 world-class ambulances arrives in about 15 minutes to provide care and transport. The service is world-class, modeled on London Ambulance Service

Source: blog.acumenfund.org

The British Medical Journal estimates that for every 5 minutes saved in ambulance response time, the survival rate doubles for cardiac arrests. Consider that before 1298, Mumbai had just 12 ambulances – with 9 out of 10 trips made to transport the dead.

Currently the model is being replicated in 2 other Indian cities – It’s time someone took the initiative and replicated the model in Lagos, Accra or Capetown that have a huge population density and a mix of private and public health care.

Update: The Acumen fund did a wonderful follow up story on Meridain Medical.  Nairobi-based Meridian Medical Centre has been profitably operating three outpatient clinics with one-third of its clients earning only $4 a day. They will open 5 more clinics over the next 3 years in higher density, lower income areas. Meridian is part of a larger trend of companies recognizing the market potential of the BoP.

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English radio lessons in Rural Bihar

Sometimes the most elegant solutions are also the simplest ones. I was reading about a fantastic radio program in the Indian State of Bihar that aims to provide basic English language to primary school students in a bid to improve the literacy levels from the current 47% to the national average of nearly 65%. The program called “English is fun’ is broadcast in half-hour segments, four days a week, and reaches seven million students attending 65,000 primary schools in all the 38 districts of the state.

According to the BBC, the state government is encouraged by the positive response from the kids and teachers, and has decided to take the program a step further and set up independent community radio stations at some schools for broadcasting lessons.

What is so encouraging about the project is that it looks for the lowest common denominator to solve a large scale problem. Always, make it a point support local Public Radio. My my local station KQED.org . You can read more about National Public Radio (NPR) and its history in America here

Read more about the Bihar Education Project here

The Bihar Education Project is a collaboration with a US-based organisation, the Education Development Center, and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to boost primary education in the country.

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Event Summary: Africa as the New Asia?

Today on June 22 from 11am – 1pm a good number of Africa minded individuals from different professional backgrounds met to offer their thoughts on technology and Africa at the beautiful Stanford Golf Course.

The event was sponsored by the SF Bay Area IPN and was titled, “Africa: The Next Asia?”  It was kicked off by a panel discussion featuring Aleem Walji from Google‘s Africa Initiatives, Leila Chirayath – founder of Samasource, Arathi Ravichandran of Vipani , and Joseph Nganga, an expert in energy innovation and Board member of Carolina for Kibera . Topics explored were Africa’s steps in development; opportunities and obstacles to sustainable prosperity; to what extent should Africa mirror what we see in Asia?; and what are the challenges and/or potential benefits of following this road?

The Panel was kindly moderated by Ellen Leanse, who is a Bay Area Business Strategist, and Author. She works with early-stage and established companies to accelerate business growth through innovative business, marketing, and product strategies. Ellen also actively supports education and micro-finance organizations in East Africa, and she is currently writing a book based on recent experiences in Kenya.

Here were some excellent notes via twitter for the event from @tylerwillis captured via summize :

Realtime results for #ipn:africa

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Policy Notes on Africa for the next U.S President


Yesterday I had the good fortune of attending an event titled “Africa: The Next Development Miracle?” The lecture was hosted by the World Affairs Council Peninsula Chapter, and the speaker was Prof. Jeremy Weinstein, an assistant professor of political science at Stanford University and Director of the Center for African Studies.

The primary question for the evening was whether Africa will be the next development miracle or should we be prepared for continuing instability, violence, and economic stagnation? Also, what should the United States’ policies be?

Professor Weinstein presented his list of “Policies for the Next president” which I found interesting and felt summed up his lecture well:

  1. Security is a prerequisite to sustained growth (based upon the Copenhagen Consensus)
  2. Recognizing the critical role of institutions especially domestically driven institutions
  3. Encouraging experimentation with different models for development
  4. Using aid to support reform (such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation which has been a center piece of the Bush Africa policy)
  5. Providing assistance to where we know it works (HIV, malaria, water, education)
  6. Prepare for major disasters and shocks perhaps as a consequence of climate change
  7. Make Globalization work (not just trade but migration, property rights and the subsidization of appropriate essential technology)

While the jury is still out on what measures are best to encourage positive growth in Africa, the need for better policy to support thriving economies in Africa cannot be disputed.

There is still an unrelenting flow of disturbing headlines, soaring food prices and shortages, continued violence in Darfur, stolen elections in Zimbabwe and Kenya. Nevertheless the overall picture is far more positive. Africa is observing positive economic growth; democracy is on the rise; and great progress is being made in the fight against disease, as hundreds of thousands of Africans now have access to life-saving anti-retro viral treatment.

What policies have worked for your country and what policies and/or initiatives should the next U.S President support ?

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Filed under Conservation and Natural Resources, Democracy, Governance and Activism, Healthcare and Education, Trade and Development

Malaria Day

The World Health Organization says nearly 500 million people get infected with malaria each year, and nearly three million, mostly children, die. Areas around the world facing the greatest risk, shown reddish brown, harbor some of the world’s poorest people. Map: Berkeley National Lab

One low-technology method to prevent malaria deaths is to deliver malaria nets. Grassroots campaigns like Nothing but Nets help to save lives by preventing malaria. Keep on sending nets and saving lives.

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On Communication, Google and Broadband Balloons


According to Om Malik and the WSJ:

Google is teaming up with Space Data Corp., a company that sends balloons carrying small (micro) base stations about 20 miles up in the air for providing connectivity to truckers and oil companies. The electronic payload is retrieved by farmers after it drifts back using a small parachute. The farmers do it because they get $100 per payload retrieved, WSJ says.Google believes balloons like these could radically change the economics of offering cellphone and Internet services in out-of-the-way areas, according to people familiar with its thinking.

If this is true, perhaps a similar low cost solution would do wonders to connect rural communities in the developing world. There is definitely a business case to bring down the cost of communication in Africa from fishermen in Tanzania to Farmers in India, to tele-medicine to education. Projects such as the much touted Africa ONE, aimed at connecting 32 countries, face too much bureaucracy to ever take off the ground and its time to rethink our approach.

Mobile communication is on the rise in much of Africa and South and Central Asia, but is generally restricted to the main grid and is prohibitively expensive. Investments by companies like Google and Space Data in localized communication technology, would greatly accelerate the integration of these communities to the Telecom grid.

As good friend worded it in a rare epiphany, “The last mile in telecommunications is just as important as the first”. Perhaps there are some solutions that already exist. Any ideas, people?

Interesting Fact: Africa is world’s fastest-growing cell phone market. From 1999 through 2004, the number of mobile subscribers in Africa jumped to 76.8 million, from 7.5 million, an average annual increase of 58 percent. By the end of the decade, that’s expected to double.

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