January 27

Scott Anderson / Kyle Poplin / James Militzer

Social Business Roundup: Scrutinizing a $30M Cookstove Study, the Limits of Silicon Valley and TV from the Sun

A Singed Clean Cookstove Study

In Nonprofit Chronicles, journalist and analyst Marc Gunther details an incendiary discussion within the clean cookstove community. At issue is a $30 million, five-year study being conducted by the National Institutes of Health with backing from the Gates Foundation. That study looks at whether liquefied petroleum gas as a cooking fuel “significantly reduces deaths and illnesses, especially in women and children who suffer the greatest exposure.” LPG definitely runs cleaner than, say, charcoal. But as a fossil fuel, its cleanliness is questioned by several several industry types and researchers. The bigger point: Why is such an expensive review necessary?


You can’t cure global health on a computer …

Caroline Buckee goes old school in an opinion piece she wrote for The Boston Globe entitled “Sorry, Silicon Valley, but ‘disruption’ isn’t a cure-all.”

“The next global pandemic will not be prevented by the perfectly designed app. ‘Innovation labs’ and ‘hackathons’ have popped up around the world, trying to make inroads into global health using technology, often funded via a startup model of pilot grants favoring short-term innovation. They almost always fail.”

Buckee adds, “We must not fall for the seductive idea that young, tech-savvy college grads can single-handedly fix public health on their computers.”


… but technology can help make inroads

Even if technology doesn’t represent a global health cure-all, as Caroline Buckee maintains above, it can still help boost health care in emerging markets, according to recent research commissioned by Philips and reported by Devex.

Data sharing, specifically, “could hold the key to significant improvements in health care personalization and delivery,” writes Jan Kimpen of Philips. “Nearly three-quarters of health care professionals surveyed in emerging economies see a future where everyone owns devices, software and mobile applications to help manage health. In developed countries, only 44 percent feel the same.”

And, since regulations surrounding data sharing haven’t yet been finalized in many emerging markets, there’s still a chance to establish a “fit-for-purpose structure from the bottom up.”


Sun Tube

No power is no problem for customers of Azuri Technologies and Kenyan satellite TV provider Zuku, which recently started providing solar-powered television directly to customers in rural parts of Kenya without access to electricity. As the BBC reports:

“Users pay an upfront fee of 4,999 Kenyan shillings (£39) for the system, and thereafter pay 149 shillings (£1.15) per day. By the end of two years on this payment schedule, customers own the kit outright.”

Another competitor could be solar lantern firm d.light, which recently raised debt financing to support a potential solar TV service.


Impact Measurement Gets MSM Treatment

Newsflash: A lot more people are measuring impact. The newsflash isn’t for you, dear reader, but for the mainstream press, which is increasingly delving into the trend. To its credit, NPR looked into the proliferation of impact measurement initiatives, starting with the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, or J-PAL, which currently has an eye-popping 800 randomized control trials under way across a variety of poverty-related projects. This fact garners both praise and criticism. But outside of J-PAL, the number of impact reports on global health and poverty programs have grown tenfold in the past 10 years, according to the International Impact Evaluation Initiative.


Ignore the headlines – it wasn’t such a bad year

It’s been a discouraging week for many in global development. As the Trump administration kicks into gear and other developed countries seem increasingly eager to embrace the new populism, concerns abound about how this political climate will impact the communities and issues we care about. So we were glad to stumble belatedly upon this year-end article from the folks at IPA, who point out that 2016 “may turn out to have been one of the best years for humanity as a whole.” They highlight encouraging trends in areas from healthcare to mobile access – worth a read if you need a pick-me-up.


Top and homepage Flickr credit: DFID.

Energy, Environment, Health Care, Impact Assessment, Technology