Q&A: Gates experts on how to beat malaria with data

Checking mosquitoes in Dominican Republic. Photo by: Sebastián Oliel / PAHO / CC BY-ND

SAN FRANCISCO — The news that progress in the fight against malaria has stalled signals the need for a new strategy, according to Bill Gates — and data and surveillance should be at the heart of it.

“I view data as the lifeblood of how we’re going to be smarter,” he said at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Malaria Summit in London on Wednesday, where he announced commitments including $1 billion for research and development efforts to end malaria.

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Gates emphasized the importance of leveraging data in making continued progress against the disease — from the geographical detail made possible by technologies such as mobile phones and satellites, to the genetic sequencing of geolocated mosquito and parasite samples.

“There is pretty broad agreement from most of the actors over here, whether it be on the drug or the vector front, that without getting this data they are not able to target their interventions and these resources are wasted,” Trevor Mundel, president of global health at the Gates Foundation, told Devex. “I would say the challenge is almost everyone agrees surveillance is a good thing, a healthy thing for the system, but to actually get action on surveillance is a little bit more difficult.”

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    Catherine Cheney

    Catherine Cheney is a Senior Reporter for Devex. She covers the West Coast of the U.S., focusing on the role of technology and innovation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. And she frequently represents Devex as a speaker and moderator. Prior to joining Devex, Catherine earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University, worked as a web producer for POLITICO and reporter for World Politics Review, and helped to launch NationSwell. Catherine has reported from all over the world, and freelanced for outlets including the Atlantic and the Washington Post. She is also the West Coast ambassador for the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit that trains and connects journalists to cover responses to problems.