USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Innovation

Working Together, Faster and Closer to Solve Development Challenges

In November 2012, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and its Office of Science and Technology launched an initiative under which seven universities would act not just as colleagues in studying global challenges, but as USAID’s laboratories, testing real-time solutions.  This Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN) is a network of eight Development Labs on seven university campuses and over 100 additional partners institutions in 38 countries that harness the ingenuity and passion of university students, researchers, and faculty to find, develop, and apply new science and tech-based solutions to the world’s most challenging development problems. HESN is powered by a conviction that advances in science and technology can bring the brightest minds in higher education closer to practitioners in developing countries who are trying out innovative approaches, as well as accelerating the expansion process for innovations that prove successful.

A year later, “TechCon 2013” in Williamsburg, Virginia brought together more than 200 representatives from the seven lead universities and their partners: The College of William & Mary; University of California, Berkeley; Duke University; Makerere University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Michigan State University; and Texas A&M University. The eight Development Labs demonstrated their individual progress, but equally exciting were the unexpected insights gained from the uncommon collaboration between members of the network. Epidemiologists learned from marketing experts, agricultural economists from software executives, and professors of mechanical engineering from post-conflict project managers.

That sort of collaboration — involving experts from disparate academic disciplines who might otherwise not run into each other on campus — was part of the vision of HESN. “The solutions that will truly be transformative, that will get us to scale, that will make us successful, that will save lives, are those that capture all of the university,” Alex Dehgan, Science and Technology Adviser to the USAID Administrator, said in his remarks to the conference. “We’re not looking for business as usual. We’re asking, are the things that you are working on going to result in innovations that are truly disruptive? Will you change the landscape as a result?”

“We’re not just trying to create grant relations with each of you,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah told the conference by video link. “We are really hoping that you will be the extramural R&D hub for the agency that has significant global capabilities and sits at the center of the American government to achieve the goals that the President laid out for us.”

In the “Innovation Marketplace” exhibition area, Chris Bielecki, who is working toward a Ph.D. in agricultural engineering, was exhibiting his project that helps farming families in food-insecure Guatemala keep a photographic journal of their meals. “Interesting to see how HESN centers’ work are integrating with each other,” Bielecki observed on Twitter. ” Who says academia can’t break out of their silos!”

More than 40 students and researchers competed for conference attendees’ votes and a chance at $4,000 in expansion funding from IBM in the conference “pitch competition”.  Environmental engineering student Caroline Delaire delivered a sales pitch for an affordable way to rid drinking water of arsenic in rural Bangladesh — just add rust. Urban planning student Elizabeth Hoffecker Moreno pitched a project in rural Zambia that helps women protect their health by making menstrual pads with locally grown cotton.  The sales pitch that won the top prize, was by Brian Gitta, a sophomore at Makerere University in Uganda. When Gitta was sick with malaria he wondered whether it would be possible to diagnose the disease without piercing the skin. He and his classmates subsequently invented a device that shines light through the skin and sends the data to a cell phone, where the results can be quickly read and interpreted, even by non-medical personnel  far from a clinic.  Beyond the pitch competition, Esri sponsored a mapping competition that brought students together to map their activities and tell the story of the network.

In the first year of HESN, Development Labs developed 27 transformative innovations and conducted pilot tests for 20 of those; 4 of them have already been adopted by the targeted communities. Labs have shared their research in 25 publications and reports as well as via websites that have attracted more than 10,000 visitors. The labs have contributed instructional material for 11 new university courses on international development.  Almost 200 students have received field experience including more than 50 who completed overseas fellowships of more than a month.

At the end of the conference, USAID’s Dehgan said the gathering marked an important step in the evolution of the foreign aid establishment’s embracing of innovation. “I think it is the tipping point where we really went from vision and idea to the actual production of starting to get results — the creation of the ecosystems and the creation of the pipelines of services that we’re trying to do in development,” he said. “We’re starting to see a community of practice around development engineering, around the use of data, around the question of how we really harness innovation.”

To learn more about HESN, visit www.usaid.gov/hesn.

Entrepreneurs Spur Sustainable Growth and Contribute to Development Outcomes

Today, USAID celebrates National Entrepreneurship Day.

Entrepreneurs, both large and small, create jobs and spur sustainable growth that delivers benefits to people in the United States and around the world. Having spent part of my early career working to encourage investment in promising entrepreneurs throughout Africa, I’ve seen firsthand the transformations that can take place in peoples’ lives and communities when we help foster strong cultures of entrepreneurship.

In the lead up to Global Entrepreneurship Week, a worldwide celebration of innovators and job creators, USAID has partnered with other U.S. Government agencies to highlight the ways we can work with entrepreneurs to help them realize success. Every day, entrepreneurs in developing countries drive economic growth, create jobs, and contribute to development outcomes in USAID priority sectors including food security, global health, and access to energy.

Development Innovation Ventures grantee Off-Grid: Electric's entrepreneurs are lighting up Tanzania through more reliable, affordable, and sustainable electrical services. Photo Credit: Matthieu Young

Development Innovation Ventures grantee Off-Grid: Electric’s entrepreneurs are lighting up Tanzania through more reliable, affordable, and sustainable electrical services. Photo Credit: Matthieu Young

USAID recognizes the value in supporting entrepreneurs who advance market-based solutions using sustainable business models. Particularly in this current fiscal climate, enabling entrepreneurs to deliver development results that are sustainable beyond ongoing donor support is one of the best ways to leverage USAID funding. As a donor, our role is to help remove barriers that stand in the way of entrepreneurs starting and scaling their businesses, while also addressing market failures that limit the inclusion of poor and vulnerable populations. Our investments address common challenges facing entrepreneurs such as a lack of access to capital; limited availability of technical assistance, mentoring and peer networks; and a lack of awareness among investors regarding investment-ready enterprises.

Since 2010, the United States has budgeted about $4 billion annually to support programs related to entrepreneurship globally. USAID—particularly the Office of Innovation and Development Alliance, or what we call IDEA—has been proud to be a part of this ongoing commitment.

For instance, USAID is launching the Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship (PACE) initiative to support entrepreneurial ventures that have the potential to lift some of the poorest communities in the world out of poverty. USAID will direct up to $10 million over the next three years to help develop the entrepreneurial ecosystem and scale enterprises in developing countries that offer market-based solutions in areas like food security, global health, and energy access. Today, USAID launched an open call for partnership concept papers (PDF) , inviting organizations to submit ideas on ways to partner and co-invest with USAID.

USAID also recently announced a new $4.1 million Global Development Alliance with Echoing Green, Newman’s Own Foundation, General Atlantic, Pershing Square Foundation, and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Called “Priming the Pump,” the partnership will invest in young social entrepreneurs in developing countries who are pioneering innovative new solutions to major development challenges.

These are just two examples of some of the USAID initiatives designed to harness the power of entrepreneurs to advance global development that we have forthcoming. Additional fantastic entrepreneurship efforts coming out of USAID include:

  • USAID’s forthcoming partnership with Yunus Social Business (YSB) to promote entrepreneurship and the development of “social businesses” in vulnerable and underserved communities around the world and to collaborate on the development of social business incubator funds in a targeted set of developing countries
  • The USAID-Skoll Innovation Investment Alliance, a Global Development Alliance with the Skoll Foundation and Mercy Corps, identifies and invests in innovative social entrepreneurs to enable them to scale up their business models for delivering sustainable impact in areas such as education, climate change, water, and food security.  The first organization supported through the partnership, Imazon, uses the latest mapping technology and satellite imagery to help local governments in Brazil stop illegal deforestation in the Amazon.
  • Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) is an investment platform that finds, tests, and scales new solutions to development challenges around the world.  DIV is currently investing in over 80 entrepreneurial solutions in eight sectors and 27 countries around the world. Many of these solutions are almost elegant in their simplicity. For example, DIV is supporting Georgetown University researchers who are using stickers, like the kind my daughters are always putting on their notebooks, to reduce road deaths in Kenya. DIV is also working with the U.K.’s Department for International Development (DFID) on a multilateral global investment platform called GDIV that builds on DIV’s success in supporting breakthrough solutions to global development challenges.

As we embark on Global Entrepreneurship Week, I look forward to not only learning about the impactful work of emerging social enterprises, but continuing to develop new ways USAID and the U.S. Government can partner to bring these game changers to scale.

Learn more about USAID’s Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship (PACE) initiative.

Visit USAID on LinkedIn to read “My First Job” stories from USAID employees, partners and beneficiaries. Share your story on Twitter using #GEW2013!

Access to Information = Access to Opportunity

Technology is becoming increasingly important in all public services, but especially libraries. In an age where economic, educational, health, and social opportunities depend more and more on access to the Internet, lack of access means lack of opportunity.

Microsoft decided that the USAID Bibliomist project was a great opportunity to partner with USAID, the International Research and Exchanges Board, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Library Association to spur the evolution of Ukraine’s libraries into modern information resource  and community centers. Microsoft donated $9 million in software to Ukraine’s public libraries as part of its global initiative to endow communities with accessible and useful technology. Today Bibliomist can proudly state that it has helped revive 10 percent of Ukraine’s libraries and firmly planted the seeds to rejuvenate many more. Only through such a broad-based partnership could such an endeavor be realized.

A librarian assists a visitor in how to do an online search. Photo credit: USAID

A librarian assists a visitor in how to do an online search. Photo credit: USAID

Libraries are sources not only of books but also information, so their importance is not waning. Libraries can use technology in a variety of ways. For instance, by supporting public access computers, we help ensure that those who do not have computers available to them at home, work, or school can still benefit from this critical technology. Using technology, libraries can also provide benefits to the community as a whole. For instance, libraries are well positioned to develop community assessments, which are studies that help a community identify its needs and then determine how to go about meeting them.

Today Ukraine’s public libraries are working diligently to close both the digital and the opportunity gap: from giving free classes on resume-building to providing free access to technology. They are striving to provide services and workshops that address essential community needs, from increasing electoral literacy to promoting healthy lifestyles. As libraries discover better ways to deliver information via new media platforms and improve operational efficiencies, they will have a greater impact on a broader population.

In supporting Ukraine’s libraries, our expectation is that Microsoft technologies will be a resource that both municipalities and local community groups will be able to use in their efforts to bridge the digital divide and make their communities stronger.

Although there is much still to do, we’re inspired by what we’ve seen while working with Ukrainians: people taking the lead in changing not only their lives but the lives of those around them, making a real impact in their local communities and in Ukraine in general.

Read more:

Taking Action to Combat Climate Change

This week, delegates from countries around the world continue to work at the UN’s climate change negotiations in Warsaw on a global agreement to take meaningful action on climate change. In the midst of the negotiations, I was pleased to represent USAID at a side event with other Obama Administration officials to describe how the United States is already taking action to combat climate change – through the steps outlined in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

The President’s Climate Action Plan (PDF) has three main pillars: to cut carbon pollution in the United States, to prepare the United States for impacts of climate change, and to lead international efforts to address global climate change.  As part of this government-wide effort, USAID provides support to over 50 developing countries for climate change, working with them on tools and strategies that build resilience, as well as working with them to pursue sustainable economic growth, spur investment in clean energy, and reduce emissions from deforestation.

Panelists at UN’s climate change negotiations in Warsaw. From left to right: Andrew Steer, WRI, Kit Batten, Nancy Sutley, CEQ and Jonathan Pershing from DOE. Photo credit: Andrea Welsh, USAID

Panelists at UN’s climate change negotiations in Warsaw. From left to right: Andrew Steer, WRI; Kit Batten, USAID; Nancy Sutley, CEQ and Jonathan Pershing from DOE. Photo credit: Andrea Welsh, USAID

To maximize our impact, USAID is pursuing innovative financing strategies, partnering with the private sector, and utilizing science and technology. Earlier this year, Secretary Kerry announced that USAID will be able to leverage up to $100 million dollars worth of private sector investment in wind power, solar power, hydropower, and energy efficiency projects in India through USAID’s Development Credit Authority (DCA). The U.S. Government is also a founding partner of the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, which is a public private partnership with the goal of reducing tropical deforestation associated with global commodities like palm oil, paper and pulp, soy, and beef. We’re also working with NASA to provide satellite imagery and accessible weather and climate data to local officials in East Africa, Central America and the Hindu Kush/Himalaya region so communities can make more informed decisions.

We’re already seeing and measuring the impact of our efforts.  In 2012 alone, USAID’s work in the forestry sector contributed to reducing more than 140 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.  That’s equal to the carbon pollution generated by 39 coal-fired power plants, or the carbon pollution released by the consumption of over 15 billion gallons of gasoline.  That’s billion with a ‘b.’

Under President Obama’s leadership, the United States is making meaningful and measurable progress on climate change. USAID is proud to have a substantial role in this effort and is proud to represent the United States here with many of our country partners in Warsaw. We recognize that building resilience to climate change and pursuing sustainable low-emissions growth are essential parts of our development mission.

Accelerating Development through Science, Innovation, and Partnership

Rajiv Shah serves as Administrator at USAID

Rajiv Shah serves as Administrator at USAID

On a visit to Rhode Island last month, I toured a factory called Edesia, where fifty employees manufacture a high-energy peanut paste to feed millions of starving children around the world. What is remarkable is that nutrient-packed meal did not exist ten years ago. It is the result of a decade of research backed by USAID to elevate the science behind creating foods that can restore severely malnourished children to health.

America has always led the world in advancing innovation to deliver unprecedented legacies for humanity. Across our proud history, it is when we harness American science and entrepreneurship that we achieve the greatest leaps in social and economic development. For example,  the Green Revolution pulled millions from starvation thanks to high-yield varieties of rice and oral rehydration solutions saved millions of children.

Americans can be proud of USAID’s history of embracing and then advancing science, technology, and innovation to create new solutions for age-old challenges. Today, we are building on this legacy with a renewed sense of focus and energy around the world.

In the last year, twenty USAID missions (see box) have stepped forward to work hand-in-hand with university and private sector partners to harness science, technology, innovation, and partnerships to advance development goals. Imagine them as field labs where we will demonstrate the real impact of new, cost-effective innovations. That means working closely with local communities to invent, test, and apply groundbreaking ideas to help end extreme poverty.

This is a real challenge. But it is achievable if we continue to reach out to the brightest minds on the planet to generate solutions to challenges like providing vitamin-rich food to children in crisis and producing affordable, renewable, off-grid energy.

Through Development Innovation Ventures, for example, we’re investing in a team of young graduates who started a company called EGG-Energy to provide families with rechargeable batteries they can rent to power their homes for five nights at a time. In Tanzania, where 90 percent of people lack access to electricity—but 80 percent live within 5 kilometers of the power grid – this could help a generation of children grow up with light.

Through mobile money platforms like the Better than Cash Alliance, we can accelerate financial inclusion for the 1.8 billion people with access to a phone but not a bank.

Through Global Development Alliances, we’re leveraging private sector resources and expertise to help diasporan entrepreneurs in the U.S. grow their businesses. One such company, Sproxil, developed a prescription medication verification system using a scratch card on each pack of medication revealing a numerical code. By texting the code to a toll-free phone number, you can verify whether the drug is genuine or possibly fake. Today, thanks in part to a seed grant that Sproxil won through the USAID-supported African Diaspora Marketplace, the company has introduced its products in five countries where it reaches over one million consumers.

Our Grand Challenges for Development offer innovators opportunities to apply their scientific and technological expertise to clearly defined development challenges. In the last three years, we’ve launched five challenges, and we have already identified many promising innovations, including the Pratt Pouch, which won our Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge. Designed by students at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke  University, this low-cost foil pouch – similar to a ketchup packet – remains stable without refrigeration and allows mothers who give birth at home or far from a clinic to give their newborns medication to prevent HIV within the critical 48 hour window after birth.

We know that talent is everywhere, while opportunity is not. That is why our Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) is helping to level the playing field for scientists in developing countries. PEER is providing funding and mentoring support to developing country scientists working side-by-side with U.S. researchers who are funded by U.S. research agencies.  Together, these scientists are addressing a wide range of development-related topics, including health, food security, climate change, water, biodiversity, disaster mitigation, and renewable energy.

These are exciting times at USAID, and I’ve seen first-hand that the enthusiasm is contagious – from university halls to board rooms to research labs. Our challenge is to harness this wealth of energy and excitement to build a pathway out of poverty for millions of people around the world.

The 20 USAID Missions harnessing science, technology, innovation, and partnerships to advance development goals are:

Armenia Georgia Kenya RDMA
Bangladesh Haiti Mozambique South Africa
Brazil India Pakistan So. Africa Regional
Colombia Indonesia Peru Uganda
Egypt Jordan Philippines Yemen

 

USAID in the News

Devex featured a piece about USAID’s new approach to tackling urban policy through the use of crowdsourcing. A public comment period will be made available on November 7 as a part of the Sustainable Service Delivery in an Increasingly Urbanized World program. By soliciting public opinion, USAID hopes to find new ways to encourage the formation of local solutions that will allow the agency to partner with city governments and community groups to build on expertise and bolster development efforts.

The Times of India reported on a USAID grant that was awarded to three Indian companies to help them share successful low-cost agricultural innovations with African countries. The grants come through the USAID India-Africa Agriculture Innovations Bridge Program, which seeks to improve food security, nutrition, and long-term sustainability by sharing Indian innovations with farmers in Africa who will benefit from them.

Administrator at at The George Washington University’s Feeding the Planet Summit, where he announced the Feed the Future Innovation Labs. Photo credit: Joslin Isaacson, HarvestPlus

Administrator at at The George Washington University’s Feeding the Planet Summit, where he announced the Feed the Future Innovation Labs. Photo credit: Joslin Isaacson, HarvestPlus

AllAfrica covered USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah’s announcement of 10 new Feed the Future Innovation Labs that will partner with American universities to tackle the world’s most challenging agricultural research problems. A part of the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, these labs will work to address the challenges of climate change in agriculture and research ways to produce food in an environmentally sensitive manner to ensure global access to nutritious and safe foods.

Zawya reported on a joint effort between USAID and the Caterpillar Foundation, which seeks to provide intensive technical training to youth in Jordan. The program equips trainees with the skills to fill technician-level positions in key industrial sectors of the Jordanian economy. Rana Al Turk, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) Jordan Country Director says that the program aims to fill job positions, “while providing youth with a comprehensive employability approach that includes the technical training and soft skills they need to enhance their employment prospects and lead successful lives.”

Citizen News featured a story on a USAID-funded program that provides students in Kenya with laptops to enhance their educational experience. According to Jaribu Primary School headmaster Mohamed Gedi, the project has triggered a spike in the performance of the 300 hundred students that benefit from the laptops.

The Express Tribune reported on USAID’s hand over of a state-of-the-art Expanded Program on Immunization Coordination and Planning Resource Center to the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation, and Coordination in Pakistan. The center is equipped with technology and software that will allow the government to track vaccine supplies throughout the country. USAID Health Office Director Jonathan Ross, who inaugurated the center, reaffirmed the U.S. Government’s commitment to improving health indicators in Pakistan through continued health development assistance.

Cultivating Entrepreneurial Spirits in Youth to End Extreme Poverty

After attending the World Bank’s Global Youth Summit  and participating in several discussions on young change makers and the post-2015 development agenda, I was left with an impression that the global community is at the precipice of truly elevating the youth platform on major issues in development. This year’s summit theme was on “Youth Entrepreneurship: Cultivating an innovative spirit to alleviate global youth unemployment” and included a case competition in addition to a series of discussion panels.

Dillon Roseen (far left) is an intern in the Legislative and Public Affairs Bureau at USAID. He is pictured here at the World Bank Youth Summit with a few other participants. Photo credit: USAID

Dillon Roseen (far left) is an intern in the Legislative and Public Affairs Bureau at USAID. He is pictured here at the World Bank Youth Summit with a few other participants. Photo credit: USAID

Young professionals at USAID had the chance to engage with our international colleagues on issues facing young entrepreneurs, particularly in developing nations. We actively shared USAID resources relevant to our young colleagues on programs like the Development Innovation Ventures (DIV), Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN), Fall Semester, and USAID’s Youth in Development policy which has the goal to “improve the capacities and enable the aspira­tions of youth so that they can contribute to and benefit from more stable, democratic, and prosperous communities and nations.” At the summit, my “brothers and sisters” in development, as one panelist put it, joined us via livestream from Mexico City, Freetown, Addis Ababa, Bucharest, Juba, and many other cities around the world. Perhaps what I was most impressed with the entire day was the enthusiasm and tenacity with which these international change agents engaged the panelists during the Q&A, often jockeying for a turn to ask their potent and thought-provoking questions regarding corruption, political engagement, and technical infrastructure. Seeing their passion to contribute to and enliven the discussion proves that young people are catalyzers for changing the world and ending extreme poverty within our lifetime.

Even still, for my generation, which currently account for almost ¼ of the world’s population, there are many barriers and limitations for youth involvement, especially in developing countries. UN Envoy on Youth, 29 year-old Ahmad Alhendawi, noted that the average age for the general African population is 18 whereas the average age of politicians is over 60. With this discrepancy, it’s no wonder youth concerns appear to go unheeded. Corruption, poor infrastructure, and lack of capital, all major obstacles for young entrepreneurs across the developing world, are unfortunate and unacceptable realities that must be addressed by our leaders.

My major take away from the Summit was this: much is being done to shift conversation towards youth engagement, but there is still much to be done to translate this talk into action. I challenge the leaders in the development world to take the first step by following the example of the UN. Aid agencies and members of the international development world should appoint a designated Youth Coordinator for their respective organizations, someone who can concentrate the organization’s efforts to respond to the needs of young people so they are equipped with the knowledge and resources needed to advance the global community. To do this, he or she must work to arm young leaders not just with resumes and CVs, but with business plans and investment opportunities. Barriers must be reduced for political involvement and entrepreneurial spirits must be encouraged. USAID’s Youth in Development policy commits the Agency to do just that.

As I left the Summit, I mulled over a quote from John F. Kennedy that Global Poverty Project Co-Founder and CEO Hugh Evans shared with us:

“We need men who can dream of things that never were and ask why not.”

What struck me the most about this quote was the realization that my brothers and sisters across the world, despite the limitations we may face, are not only living by this quote but are inspiring others to join them. I hope you’ll join me and other young leaders as our generation fights to end extreme poverty.

The Question is King – Turning Princely Investments into Practical Solutions

“The question is king,” states the Implementation Research in Health: A Practical Guide (PDF), a new World Health Organization resource from The Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research/Implementation Research Platform. Launched this month, the guide strives to answer a critical question facing public health today: As we invest increasingly princely sums for health interventions throughout the world, why do we continue to stare down statistics such as an estimated 2.5 million people getting infected with HIV and over 7.6 million children succumbing to preventable deaths each year?ImplementationResearchInHealth

For some, terms such as implementation research, implementation and delivery science are the language of the day. Many more, we suspect, use the terms with a degree of hesitation. The basic underlying principle is clear. Promising programs and research – those with exciting results from a proof of principle study or small stage implementation – may not be readily replicated on a larger scale, or demonstrate similar impact in a different location.

Implementation Research in Health provides a rigorous approach to addressing these gaps. The guide offers researchers and program implementers the rationale for implementation science, and an introduction to its practical mixed methodological approach – drawing from epidemiology to market research, health services research and even political science. Some may recognize much of the content – the guide updates the 2003 Implementation Research in TDR: Conceptual and Operational Framework, for example. But, the easy-to-use-format (key points are summarized for each chapter; helpful graphics summarize everything from implementation science strategies, outcome variables and the research continuum) makes the guide a welcome new addition.

At a recent Investigators’ Meeting for USAID partners supporting implementation science studies to improve PEPFAR programs, participants discussed the importance of publishing not only on the results of these studies, but the rigorous approaches used to generate the results. We applaud such efforts. We encourage more researchers to publish on the rigorous implementation science methods they’ve used – it can only help build a common understanding of the underlying rigor that is the hallmark of quality implementation science research (read a description of USAID’s implementation science portfolio to support PEPFAR programs and on USAID’s implementation science related to maternal, newborn, and child health).

Implementation science can look beyond the impact of individual interventions to evaluate interventions aimed at improving broader health systems. As we ask questions in our increasingly complex global health world – from “how to best integrate previously separate programs?” to “how do we measure impact as we increasingly work through and with our partner governments and donors?” – implementation research plays a critical role in helping us address these issues. We encourage future editions of this and other implementation science resources to share how rigorous implementation science has helped address these broader questions.

Implementation Research in Health calls its subject “new” and “neglected.” Yet, people have been doing implementation research (or variants of it) for decades. The guide is a promising resource to bring implementation research into the spotlight where we think it belongs – we encourage you to read the guide and decide for yourself.

Harnessing S&T for Global Development

This originally appeared on the White House Blog

Recently, I interviewed Dr. Andrew Sisson, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director in Indonesia, who is leveraging science and technology (S&T) and innovation to help tackle development challenges in Indonesia.

Why is USAID focusing on S&T and innovation in Indonesia? What are some of the economic and societal challenges that S&T can help address?

Science, technology, and innovation have the potential to solve important global development problems. S&T can help communities and governments control the impact and spread of infectious diseases; protect marine environments; strengthen resilience to natural disasters and climate change; and much more. In just one example, we are working with the Indonesia National Tuberculosis Program (NTP) to test a new, simple and rapid tuberculosis (TB) diagnostic called GeneXpert. The goal of this technology is to increase the rapid detection and treatment of TB in HIV patients. The results of pilot testing in 17 locations across Indonesia will be published soon and, with support from the Global Fund and TB REACH, the Indonesia NTP has already expanded  use of the new diagnostic to private-sector hospitals.

Indonesia Laboratory technical at Hasan Sadikin Hospital in Bandung (West Java) performs multi-drug resistant TB tests using GeneXpert as part of a pilot project supported by USAID. Photo credit: Roni Chandra

Indonesia Laboratory technical at Hasan Sadikin Hospital in Bandung (West Java) performs multi-drug resistant TB tests using GeneXpert as part of a pilot project supported by USAID. Photo credit: Roni Chandra

What is the mission’s strategy around S&T over the next few years?

USAID is partnering with the Government of Indonesia to use new and innovative approaches to achieve Indonesia-specific development goals. We’ve also decided together to focus part of our investment on developing components of Indonesia’s “scientific ecosystem,” including by developing merit-based research systems and strengthening the scientific evidence-to-policymaking cycle. Our joint work also includes scholarship opportunities, joint research between Indonesian and American scientists, and private-sector partnerships to adopt advanced technologies for development goals.

What are some opportunities to strengthen collaboration between Indonesian and American scientists?

Indonesia and the United States have many overlapping scientific interests: climate change, marine conservation, healthcare diagnostics, renewable energy, disaster risk reduction, and more. And so we’d like to open more doors for scientific collaborations to take root in these areas. The State Department has established an official dialogue with Indonesia on making scientific exchanges a top priority. But, it can’t only be a government-to-government effort. For scientific collaboration to flourish we’ve got to place it in the hands of our top scientists and students – and so networking among students and universities in both countries has also been a promising area of partnership.

Can you give an example of an individual or project that exemplifies USAID and Indonesia’s collaborative work in S&T?

What’s been incredible to see is how quickly an international network of scientists can come together to create something big when given the opportunity. One great example is the broad network for biodiversity research that has been created by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Udayana University in Bali, and the State University of Papua through the support of USAID and the National Science Foundation. Some of the researchers that are part of this network converge at the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center – a facility in Indonesia where American and Indonesian students come together every summer to get trained in the latest genetic techniques for applications in marine biodiversity and conservation.

What advice do you have for other USAID Missions that are interested in elevating S&T efforts?

We’re still on the early part of the curve so there is a lot to learn, but we’re eager to share as we move forward. What’s been very important in our strategy development are the ongoing conversations and consultations with Indonesian counterparts who are helping define what areas of science and technology we can work on together. For this to be a successful and sustainable part of the U.S.-Indonesia long-term relationship means that Indonesia will be an equal partner each step of the way, as a collaborator and co-investor – and I believe we are making good progress down that path together.

Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at OSTP

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