Opinion: Healthy citizens, healthy economies — 5 ways to leverage technology for inclusive growth

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Inclusive growth for all citizens of the African continent is the rallying point for the 2017 World Economic Forum on Africa. To that end, we challenge leaders convening in Durban, South Africa, to embrace the multi-faceted definition of human health captured in the opening principle of the constitution of the World Health Organization: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” These fundamental elements of human health are inextricably linked, and so must be the technological infrastructure supporting them.

South Africa’s 90-90-90 Challenge
90-90-90 is an innovative data-driven strategy to combat HIV — a key building block of a healthy society.

To gain control over the HIV epidemic, the South African government set three goals for 2017:
• 90 percent of citizens living with HIV know their status.
• 90 percent of people infected are on antiretroviral therapy.
• 90 percent on treatment are virally suppressed.

As part of a cooperative agreement with PEPFAR, the United States Agency for International Development and the South African Department of Health, BroadReach worked in nine districts over five years, leveraging the BroadReach Vantage data-driven platform to streamline health delivery analysis, decision-making and improve the quality of service delivery.

• Viral load completion rates jumped from 32 percent to 92 percent.
• Suppression rates rose from 57 percent to 81 percent.
• 55 person-years saved by automating data collection and reporting.

Consequently, we urge leaders to embrace technology’s pivotal role in enabling governments to serve their peoples, as the WHO’s closing principle in the constitution suggests: “Governments have a responsibility for the health of their peoples which can be fulfilled only by the provision of adequate health and social measures.”

A society in which all citizens have the potential to thrive is possible only if governments provide the most vulnerable with access to quality health care and nutritious food, clean water, sanitation, education, job training, decent work and compensation, and the ability to live peacefully and equitably in society.

Back in 2015, in a WEF Agenda blog, we highlighted the importance of approaching the then newly launched 17 Sustainable Development Goals as one complex web of connected goals, or else risk seeing thousands of disjointed and redundant efforts — all in competition for precious resources — severely limiting the impact of the outcomes.

Since the WHO constitution’s conception almost 70 years ago, thought-leaders around the world have studied the connections between population health and economic growth, with many concluding that good income causes good health. Others, including economist David Odrakiewicz from the University of Aberdeen, posit the reverse — good health is the cause of good income.

Rather than get caught in the proverbial chicken and egg discussion, we embrace the position of Harvard School of Public Health professors David E. Bloom and David Canning: Both directions of causality work together simultaneously. Odrakiewicz calls Bloom and Canning’s theory a “virtuous circle where health enhancements stimulate economic growth, which then stimulates health.”

Integrated collaboration tools allow stakeholders to collect valuable data, share knowledge and troubleshoot from every location.

4th Industrial Revolution technologies — a now familiar term coined by Klaus Schwab, WEF’s founder and executive chairman, which explains the technological revolution we are currently experiencing, made possible by converging physical, digital and biological advances — offer leaders breakthrough opportunities to strengthen the scale and impact of this “virtuous circle.”

Imagine the potential for inclusive health and growth when government, nongovernmental organizations, donor organizations and corporations operating in the developing world leverage technology, to move:


Despite more than a decade of advocacy by many for the use of technology to support inclusive growth, in the first quarter of 2017, 500 development professionals across six sectors and 74 countries surveyed by GlobalScan and SustainAbility unanimously agreed that progress to date on sustainable development has been poor.

Let us take this indictment as a call-to-action. Now is the time for all of us working in emerging economies to partner with our sector peers and commit to leveraging technology for inclusive growth. Together, we can shape a virtuous circle of healthy and productive citizens and vibrant economies.

You can learn more about how BroadReach is working to empower leaders in global development here.

The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the authors

  • Ernest Darkoh

    Dr. Ernest Darkoh is a co-founder of BroadReach Consulting. He is an internationally known expert in strategic health care systems planning, development and large-scale program implementation, including Botswana’s highly acclaimed Antiretroviral Treatment Program, the first African national HIV treatment program which serves as a successful model today.
  • John Sargent

    Dr. John Sargent, co-founder of BroadReach, is recognized globally as a health care solutions thought­ leader in market development strategy, health systems analytics and optimization, and public­-private partnerships in emerging markets.

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