FSI's Technology, Governance, and Global Development Conference

In mid April, FSI convened a special conference on Technology, Governance, and Global Development, to examine how technical innovation solves, or fails to solve, the problems of chronic global underdevelopment.  Experts from business, medicine, philanthropy, academia, government and non-governmental organizations, along with young Stanford alumni, addressed technology's ability to help secure gains in health, economic development, agricultural innovation, food security, and human development.

With a wealth of expertise and on-the-ground experience, panelists tackled central issues and engaged in spirited debate, animated by moderator Philip Taubman.  "The Promise of Information and Communications Technology" examined whether technology can transform lives of individuals, even in poorly governed countries, finding encouraging evidence in technology-based medical and health services and novel approaches to economic development, including sharing vital information and banking via mobile phones. 

A panel of young Stanford alumni discussed their entrepreneurial efforts that led to the development of a low-cost, lifesaving incubator for low birth weight babies, the FACE AIDS program begun at Stanford that now has 20 chapters and has contributed some $2 million for treatment of people with AIDS in Africa, a new Global Health Corps to train health care workers, and other innovations to save lives in underserved areas.

Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, gave the lunchtime keynote with a focus on why democracies are more effective and ultimately more efficient in delivering economic development. Democracies are better at protection of rule of law and property rights, she noted. Democracies are less corrupt, more in touch with their people, more stable, and better able to deliver the benefits of human capital development, health, and education to their population as a whole.

A third panel on "Governance, Innovation, and Service Delivery" addressed how innovative institutions and technologies could overcome poor governance and deliver needed services in underdeveloped regions. "Despite extraordinary growth in our technical capacity to prevent and treat child illness and death, we are seeing stagnation or a rise in mortality rates of children under five in some areas," said pediatrician Paul Wise. "This reflects gross failures in delivering highly efficacious health interventions." Some 9 million children still die each year, and 65 percent of child deaths in unstable areas are preventable, he noted. Wise has launched a new program to improve child health in areas of unstable governance through new integrated technical and political strategies.

A fourth session on "Creative Markets for Technical Innovation" honed in on the institutions, innovations, and incentives needed to stimulate development of products and services that address the needs of the poor. Panelists focused on pharmaceuticals, agricultural innovation, use of mobile technologies to share information on best practices, improved food security through innovative technology - such as solar-powered irrigation to expand growing seasons, crops, and incomes, and the development of human capital in China through rigorous evaluation, field trials, and nutritional intervention.

Among the experts addressing these vital issues were Google.org's Megan Smith, BP Solar's Reyad Fezzani, Center for Global Development President Nancy Birdsall, Gates Foundation Director of Agricultural Development Sam Dryden, Gilead Science's Clifford Samuel, dynamic Stanford alumni Nava Ashraf ‘97, Jared Cohen ‘04, Jane Chen ‘08, and Jonny Dorsey ‘07, and FSI's Coit D. Blacker, Joshua Cohen, Stephen D. Krasner, Paul H. Wise, Rosamond L. Naylor, and Scott Rozelle.

FSI Payne Lecturer Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Chairman, Microsoft, gave an address on "Giving Back: Finding the Best Way to Make a Difference."  He urged students to become involved in the central issues of global healthincluding the need to reduce child mortality through more vaccines and better delivery systemsand education, saying we need to find out "what works" and use the Internet to share lessons learned globally.

"We need to shift talent toward bigger needs," Gates said, urging students to provide the passion and ideas to drive us forward in health, education, and energy.  To make a difference, Gates advised, "Get your hands dirty, do the hard work in the actual environment, early in your career."  Telling students that he is looking for "great ideas," he challenged them to post answers on the Gates Foundation Facebook wall to three questions: What problems are you working on? What draws you in? How will you draw other people in to work on solutions to the world's great challenges.