USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Innovation

Harnessing Science, Technology, and Innovation To Promote Global Development

Originally posted on the White House blog

Today at the White House, senior Administration officials announced a series of new initiatives to promote game-changing innovations to solve long-standing development challenges.  Answering President Obama’s call to harness science technology, and innovation to spark global development, the Administration announced initiatives from across the government to generate new development solutions.  Announcements include new partnerships with universities; greater use of scientific breakthroughs through expedited technology transfer of federally-funded inventions; a program to reward inventors who use their patented technologies to address humanitarian needs; and initiatives to leverage advances in Internet and communications technologies to provide new development tools.

In an increasingly globalized world, the Obama Administration recognizes that global development is vital to national security and is a strategic, economic, and moral imperative.  One of the cornerstones of our global development policy is a commitment to investments in game-changing innovations with the potential to solve long-standing development challenges in health, food security, environmental sustainability, and broad-based economic growth.  Innovation can play a key role in building a stable, inclusive global economy with new sources of prosperity, advancing democracy and human rights, and helping us to increase the ranks of prosperous, capable, and democratic states that can be our partners in the decades to come.

Administrator Raj Shah announced that USAID is launching a new partnership with universities and research institutes to define and solve large development challenges.  USAID also announced new commitments to increased utilization of electronic and mobile payments to save on costs and increase financial access; a new effort to make assistance to other governments in telecommunications development more efficient; a new “app store” for development to spur humanitarian apps and software; and new commitments to mobile education technology as part of USAID’s All Children Reading grand challenge for development.

Read the rest of this entry »

Open for Questions: Innovation for Global Development

Originally posted on the White House blog

On Wednesday, February 8 at 9am, the White House will host an event to highlight how the government and the private sector are harnessing science, technology, and innovation to promote global development. Speakers from the White House, U.S. Agency for International Development, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and the private sector will join participants from universities, industry, and nonprofits for a discussion of innovation and global development. Watch live at www.whitehouse.gov/live.

Later in the day, at 11:00 a.m., Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development, Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director of the National Security Council and Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Policy, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy & Senior Advisor for Science, Technology, and Innovation, National Economic Council will take your questions on the role of science, technology and innovation in global development.

  • What: Open for Questions: Innovation for Global Development
  • Who:Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development, Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director of the National Security Council and Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Policy, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy & Senior Advisor for Science, Technology, and Innovation, National Economic Council
  • When: Wednesday, February 8 at 11:00 a.m. ET
  • Where: Watch live at WhiteHouse.gov/live and submit your questions via Facebook, Twitter using the hashtag #WHChat or our webform.

Erin Lindsay is Deputy Director of Online Engagement for the Office of Digital Strategy at the White House.

Can Mobile Money Transform a Country?

Two years after the earthquake, Haiti is rebuilding not just brick by brick, but click by click.

A message confirms the deposit of a new customer who is signing up for Digicel’s Tcho Tcho mobile banking on March 3, 2011, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo Credit: Kendra Helmer/USAID

The earthquake left behind a government in rubble, an economy in shambles, and a people living in makeshift camps, coping with enormous loss.  Against this backdrop, the possibility of progress lives not just in the resilient spirit of the Haitian people, but also in the simple power of their mobile phones.

In June 2010, USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched the Haiti Mobile Money Initiative (HMMI)(PDF, 163KB). This program leveraged the private sector and the ubiquity of mobile phones to bring financial services to Haitians, 90 percent of whom didn’t have access to a bank account before the earthquake destroyed nearly one-third of the country’s bank branches, ATMs, and money transfer stations.  Put simply, mobile money gives Haitians access to banking without building a single bank.

It worked.  In January 2011, one year after the earthquake, HMMI awarded Digicel and its partner bank, Scotiabank, a “First to Market” Award of $2.5 million for “Tcho Tcho Mobile.” Five months ago, HMMI awarded mobile operator Voila and their bank partner, Unibank, $1.5 million for “T-Cash.”  While verification is still underway, data reported by the industry indicate that there are nearly 800,000 registered users.  Moreover, there are over 800 agent locations now available to serve clients.  In a country where there are fewer than two bank branches per 100,000 people, this represents a near doubling of accessible financial services.

These numbers are significant, but what do they mean for the people of Haiti?  Why should we care about the growth of mobile money in Haiti and the rest of the developing world? 

Read the rest of this entry »

Crowd Sourcing Development Innovation in India

India has become synonymous with innovation.  Inexpensive mHealth applications.  The Tata Nano. Low cost eye surgery. These are just a handful of the frugal innovations that India has developed and is now exporting.  With a booming social enterprise sector, a number of the world’s leading academics, Nobel Prize winners and thinkers, a vibrant private sector, and world-class NGOs like Pratham, India has been dubbed the innovation hub for the West.

In light of this innovation boom, Administrator Raj Shah challenged us to think about how we could harness the enormous creativity and frugal innovation found in India, and how we could partner to find and scale high-impact development solutions that drive down the cost of development and get results faster—not just for India but for the rest of the developing world, and even here in the United States.   USAID has had great success in significantly reducing HIV transmission rates and was within reach of eradicating polio in India. How could we do more of that while thinking globally, not just locally?

We didn’t have to look further than Lalitesh Katragadda, who is an Indian citizen who earned his robotics PhD at Carnegie Mellon.  Lalitesh joined Google when it was a start-up, and then returned to India to both grow the engineering talent base and search for inexpensive ways to solve some of the world’s most troubling development challenges. With a group of volunteers he came up with a way to get the world to map its neighborhoods. The Pakistanis used the new Google Map Maker during the devastating floods last year to locate 800,000 people. They told Lalitesh that the maps helped them save an estimated 250,000 flood victims’ lives, all with a crowd sourcing tool. This is an inexpensive solution at scale. This is what is sorely needed.

Today USAID is announcing a partnership with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI); one of the largest microfinance organizations in India, Basix; and an Indian venture operation, Infinity Innovation Fund. The focus is to source and scale development solutions being developed and tested in India that will benefit vulnerable populations across the country and the rest of the world.

The Millennium Alliance: An India-US Innovation Partnership for Global Development will raise $50 million in seed capital, grants, loans, guarantees, and technical support for base of the pyramid solutions. The Alliance will be modeled on USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures to deliver maximum development impact by focusing on cost-effective solutions, rigorous testing and evaluation, and transition to scale via public and private pathways. USAID has committed $7.5 million to help launch the partnership with the Indian businesses matching it.

We knew FICCI was the right partner when we saw on the Boardroom entry wall a picture of Mahatma Gandhi and quote from his FICCI address in 1927, which read, “The industry should regard themselves as trustees of the poor.” Dr. Rajiv Kumar, Secretary General of FICCI embodies that motto- smart business and caring about those currently left behind.

Together we are eager to create a new, transformational relationship with India that marries USAID’s continuing and sustained efforts to make American taxpayer dollars go further and India’s potential as a global innovation laboratory to lift up the world’s poor.

USAID and Partners Kick Off LAUNCH: Energy

There is something incredibly powerful about working alongside innovators and entrepreneurs who are on the brink of deploying products and technologies with the potential to solve longstanding development problems.  As USAID and our partners prepare to kick off the LAUNCH: Energy Forum this Friday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, we are eagerly awaiting that exact opportunity.

The LAUNCH experience is challenging and affirming all at once.  For many of us, it is a singular reminder of why we chose to work in international development or on global environmental sustainability issues: to do our own small part in solving humanity’s most critical problems.  In joining together to form LAUNCH, USAID, NASA, the U.S. Department of State, and Nike, Inc. declared our intention to work together toward that very goal.

As anyone who travels or works regularly in the developing world knows, access to clean, sustainable, and affordable sources of energy is one of the 21st century’s largest development challenges.  Even basic levels of access to power can make a substantial impact on the challenges faced by off-grid communities.  With basic access to energy, school children can study at home at night, health clinics can refrigerate vaccines, and consumers can charge the household appliances and devices that make daily life more productive and convenient.  Through LAUNCH, we will showcase and support over the next six months some of the most promising technologies and programs that take on important parts of this energy access challenge.  LAUNCH has convened a truly impressive group of energy innovators.  They include, for example:

  • A micro/mini-grid solution for underserved communities that utilizes modular battery storage technology, energy management intelligence, and a pre-payment model (“Gram Power”);
  • An economical fuel cell for developing country markets that allows battery charging in cooking pits or fires, offering an affordable way for off-grid consumers to charge cell phones and power household lighting (“Point Source Power”);
  • A rural refrigeration system for commercial cold-storage applications in off-grid and partially electrified areas of developing countries (“Promethean Power Systems”).

You can see the full list of the LAUNCH: Energy innovators and descriptions of their innovations.

We are equally excited about the bright and diverse group of people who have joined the LAUNCH Council, which will advise the innovators.  During the Forum, the innovators will engage in three days of collaboration with the Council, a world-class group representing the business, investment, international development, policy, engineering, science, communications, and sustainability sectors.  We have assembled the Council to give individualized advice to the innovators and to form a network that can help accelerate their progress in the coming months. Check out profiles of the LAUNCH Council members.

We know this weekend will be an invigorating experience for our partners, the innovators, and the Council members alike.  We look forward to both the intensive collaboration this weekend and to the subsequent work through our “LAUNCH Accelerator” of helping advance some of the world’s most promising energy innovations.

Please follow the LAUNCH: Energy Forum this Friday and Saturday (November 11 and 12) and participate right along with us.  Portions of the Forum will be viewable live from www.launch.org, where you can also learn more about LAUNCH.

Investing in High-impact, Low-cost Innovations that Save Lives

Dr. Christopher J. Elias is president and CEO of PATH, an international nonprofit organization that creates sustainable, culturally relevant solutions, enabling communities worldwide to break longstanding cycles of poor health.

A new mother experiencing excessive bleeding after childbirth can die within minutes if the bleeding isn’t stopped. For women in developing countries, time too often runs out before they can get help. Postpartum hemorrhage is the leading cause of maternal mortality—deaths that cause a ripple effect on the children, families, and communities left behind.

What if a simple device costing less than $10 could save a new mother’s life? USAID is building on its decades-long partnership with PATH by investing in our effort to develop a cost-effective solution: a balloon tamponade that can stop postpartum bleeding within 5 to 15 minutes and can be used in peripheral health facilities.

With a new grant of approximately $100,000 from Development Innovation Ventures—USAID’s new venture capital–style fund—we will adapt this existing technology to make it affordable in developing countries. Our goal is to lower the price from as much as $312 per device to less than $10 by streamlining the design and manufacturing process.

Read the rest of this entry »

USAID’s Frontlines – June/July 2011

Read the latest edition of USAID’s premier publication, FrontLines for these stories focusing on the Agency’s work in Science and Technology and Climate Change:

  • The United States is helping developing countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve their resilience to the effects of climate change
  • Warns Vermont’s Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy: “We are facing a global environmental crisis that may be catastrophic for future generations …”
  • With Peru’s tropical glaciers melting fast due to rising greenhouse gas emissions, soaring temperatures and erratic rainfall, USAID and its partners are working quickly to mitigate the damage and help Peruvians adapt
  • John P. Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, says there are both great challenges and great opportunities today to use science, technology and innovation to introduce improvements to the developing world
  • In trying to predict future trends – foresight research is the technical term – USAID experts look closely at several factors to improve the odds that Agency programs will have the desired impacts now and withstand the tests of time

Read these stories and much more in the new issue of FrontLines. If you want to receive an e-mail reminder when the latest issue has been posted online, subscribe here.

World TB experts convene, work to blaze the trail to slow disease spread

As featured in Science Speaks by Meredith Mazzotta

“As you and I both know, people that dedicate their lives to global health are special,” said U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah at the opening session of the Stop TB Partnership Coordinating Board Meeting, taking a moment to recognize the passing of his colleague, former USAID Tuberculosis (TB) Team Lead Susan Bacheller. He then asked for a moment of silence in her honor.

“She is deeply missed.”

Shah addressed an audience of physician-scientists, industry representatives, advocates and government officials that make up the Stop TB Partnership Coordinating Board, in addition to the ministers of health from Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa. Shah commented on the current status of TB control efforts around the world, noting that, “we won’t meet the overall Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) unless we make some fundamental changes,” he said.

Part of the 6th MDG is to have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of major infectious diseases including tuberculosis.

“We need to take some bold actions and risks and introduce new innovations, new technologies, new drug regimens and new ways of working to reach the outcomes that we all seek,” Shah said.

The changes he highlighted were the need for new technologies in diagnostics and treatment including for drug-resistant forms of TB. He noted that the development and deployment of the Gene Xpert rapid TB test is encouraging, but continues to be quite costly. He encouraged the audience to think about what types of strategies might exist to try to introduce these diagnostics to better understand their value and performance in the field, while looking for opportunities to reduce their cost.

The reality of treatment targets, Shah said, is our ability to reach them or not to reach them is not tied to our immediate budget, “but rather if we can continue on the path to reduce the cost per unit of treatment.  I hope we will greatly exceed these targets,” even in an environment where we are facing serious constraints on our ability to invest, here and abroad, he said. Using efficiency gains to achieve and exceed new targets, Shah said, could make a much stronger case for future investment in TB as a means of furthering overall global health targets.

Assistant U.S. Secretary for Health Dr. Howard Koh noted that even the U.S. still sees 11,000 cases of TB every year.  “We had a goal of eliminating TB in the U.S. by 2010 and we have not reached that goal,” he said, adding that the health of every nation affects the overall health of the globe.

During a question and answer session with an extended panel, Lesotho Minister of Health Dr. Mphu Ramatlapeng listed her thoughts on the three most important unmet needs inhibiting real progress against tuberculosis. First, she cited the need for diagnostic and other technologies that can be used across diseases. For example, “there is work underway with the Gene Xpert so that it also can be used to detect [sexually transmitted infections] and other diseases,” she said. Gene Xpert developer FIND announced in February that the company was investigating potential rapid HIV viral load measurement to be added to the current machine. Ramatlapeng also noted the need for fixed-dose combination drug regimens, “because they will make life very easy for all involved,” and better access to drugs as key to success in fighting TB.

When asked how the ministers were addressing the spread of TB among the mine workers in Lesotho and South Africa, Ramatlapeng said she is working with the World Bank to convene a meeting with the ministers responsible for natural resources and mining, as well as the ministers of finance to more holistically address how to move ahead.

Other future goals in TB control mentioned at the meeting included ensuring successful roll out of new technologies to those who need them most, access to health systems to ensure new cases are detected as early as possible, achieving the most value for investment, and making certain that TB is a party of primary health care that is universally accessible.

Administrator Shah Delivers a TED Talk on Leveraging Science and Technology in Development

Administrator Rajiv Shah delivering a TED Talk in Long Beach. Photo Credit: Dan Shine/USAIIn the world of science and technology, we crave for the new and the different.  Innovation is described as applied invention sometimes, but true innovation creates an emotion when you’re exposed to it.  It’s a combination of fascination and an urgent instinct to share what you’ve just experienced with others.

I just finished day one of the annual TED conference in Long Beach, and amongst the sharing of breakthroughs in quantum mechanics, the relationship between policy and emotion, and a virtual choir, the audience got a chance to hear from USAID Administrator Raj Shah.

He described how we are changing the way USAID approaches aid, highlighting innovations in healthcare delivery, mobile banking, and the prevention of HIV transmission.  He focused on how important leveraging these science and technology game-changers has become, and provided a strong vision for the future.

This is a tough crowd.  TED prides itself on showing us things not seen before.  From us, they saw USAID’s innovative vision and Raj’s passion, and from all the conversations and excitement that ignited following his talk, it’s clear they were intently excited and inspired about what they saw.  Just as importantly, millions more will have access to that vision when his talk makes it’s way to www.ted.com.

Week 9: The Modern Development Enterprise

50th anniversary logo

Today, USAID is fundamentally changing—becoming more efficient, effective, and businesslike—which ultimately helps our investment dollars go further.

Our effort to transform how development is delivered reflects the beliefs of the President and the Secretaries of State, Treasury and Defense: development is as critical to our economic prospects and our national security as diplomacy and defense.

We have an obligation to make sure our reform efforts go beyond building an updated version of an aid agency. We are seeking to build something greater—the world’s first modern development enterprise.

Executing a Clear and Focused Strategy. Like an enterprise, we are developing and executing innovative and focused strategies across our areas of excellence.

We recognize the enormous development progress the world has made in recent decades. But we also realize that more has to be done, and more of the same will not be enough. We must embrace a spirit of innovation to change the way we work.

  • Food Security. Instead of merely providing food aid in times of emergency, we are helping countries develop their own agricultural sectors so they can feed themselves.
  • Global Health. We will transition away from a scattered approach that fights individual diseases one at a time; we are pursuing an integrated approach that will generate efficiencies and strengthen health systems.
  • Disaster and Crisis Response. Based on lessons learned in Haiti and Pakistan, we’re reforming our approach to disaster assistance to speed the time between response, recovery and long-term development.
  • Economic Growth. We are rejecting the traditional assumption that a series of development projects alone will lead to growth and are instead developing partnerships for growth with countries committed to enabling private sector investment.

 

  • Democracy & Governance. Instead of merely paying to hold elections, we are now funding new open government technologies to quickly and significantly increase transparency, so citizens can hold their own governments accountable.

We are bringing a similar spirit of innovation, science, technology and strategic thinking to areas such as education, water, and climate. In each of these core areas, we have already or will soon release comprehensive strategies that detail how we can achieve development gains faster, more sustainably, and at lower cost so more people can benefit.

Measuring and Evaluating Our Work. Like an enterprise, we are relentlessly focused on delivering results and learning from failures. USAID used to be the world leader in development evaluation, but we have fallen from that distinction.

We are working to ensure we’re spending American taxpayer money in the most responsible way possible. To help meet this goal, we’ve introduced an evaluation policy that will set a new standard in development. This policy includes:

  • Independent third-party evaluation of major projects;

 

  • Baseline data collection and study designs to measure our actual impact in the field; and

 

  • Public release of evaluations within three months, whether they indicate success or failure.

Delivering Shareholder Value. Like an enterprise, we are focused on delivering the highest possible value to our shareholders—the American people and the Congressional leaders who represent them.

We have created a suspension and debarment taskforce to monitor, investigate, and respond to suspicious behavior among our contractors and partners.

We will also deliver savings by reducing our footprint in countries where development successes have created the conditions where American assistance is frankly no longer necessary. By 2015, we believe USAID can graduate away from assistance in at least seven countries, starting with Montenegro in 2012.

Serving Our Customers. Like an enterprise, we are listening to and improving the way we serve our customers—in our case, the people of the developing world.

We seek to do our work in a way that allows us to be replaced over time by efficient local governments, thriving civil societies and vibrant private sectors. We have launched aggressive procurement and contracting reforms, and to improve competition, we’ve announced that no contract extensions in excess of $5 million will be non-competitively granted without the personal clearance of the USAID Administrator.

As USAID approaches its 50th anniversary this year, we are reflecting upon about the ultimate benefits we’re delivering. We’re not only helping the people we serve, we’re creating jobs for Americans, helping keep us safe at home, and reflecting our core American values.

We create economic opportunity by helping develop strong trade partnerships in countries that will be the growing markets of tomorrow—relationships that create jobs here at home.

We keep America safe by playing a direct role in national security—working directly with the military to help stabilize volatile regions like Afghanistan and Pakistan, or preventing conflict in Southern Sudan.

And our work reflects our American values—working with students, families and communities of faith to address the needs of the developing world.

Ultimately, creating the modern development enterprise will help advance prosperity and security both in the developing countries that need it most, and within our own borders. This reflects the beliefs of both President Obama and Secretary Clinton—that together we have the power to create the world we seek if we have the courage to embrace the opportunity.

Now is the time to invest in USAID’s capabilities, so we see the day when our assistance is no longer necessary.

If you missed the speech, you can see it here.

Page 14 of 16:« First« 11 12 13 14 15 16 »