April 30, 2013

Innovation, Technology Keys to Global Equality, Says Gates Foundation CEO Jeff Raikes

By: The Bridgespan Group
Jeff-Raikes_198x135-(1).jpgJeff Raikes is changing the world twice over. As a former member of Microsoft’s senior leadership team, Raikes is widely credited with driving Microsoft's early success in business applications. When he retired from Microsoft in September 2008, Raikes' life changed course. Now he's driving success in a different arena—philanthropy. As CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and co-founder of the Raikes Foundation, Raikes aims to catalyze long-term sustainable change that will address systemic inequality and create opportunity for people around the globe.

Achieving those ambitious goals relies heavily on innovation. "One of the core values we have at the Gates Foundation is innovation," says Raikes. "We are big believers in scientific innovation, technological innovation, systems innovation, delivery innovation." In a blog entry for the foundation, he writes that this belief in innovation is why over the past decade the foundation has invested in numerous advances such as a rapid-results tuberculosis test to help reduce TB transmission, family-planning tools for women, and better toilets and sanitation solutions for the world’s poorest people. "In all, the foundation and its partners have developed more than 100 new innovations that are available today or scheduled to be introduced by the end of the decade," he writes. The problem? Innovation pile-up.
  Innovation pile-up is a term the foundation uses to describe the myriad obstacles that prevent the delivery of those innovations. For example, in the developing world where health innovations such as those mentioned above are most needed, public health systems may lack staff, training, and infrastructure; roads and transportation systems may be underdeveloped or nonexistent; and cultural mores may deter the use of new treatments. In addition, new products may be difficult to introduce due to market forces. "We could have a hundred or more new global health interventions available in the next 10 years, and you have to really think about not only having that intervention available but how is it going to deliver," says Raikes. The foundation is looking into multiple ways to prevent innovation pile-up, including exploring how to integrate new innovations into existing delivery systems. Importantly, Raikes says the foundation will “be listening closely to the people who will benefit from these innovations” to design solutions that will work best.

For a complete archive of Jeff Raikes' videos, see here.

If innovation pile-up is philanthropy's foe, technology, on the other hand, is its friend. "I’m particularly excited about how we can leverage [the] information technology revolution and other revolutions in technology like genomics, in order to improve philanthropy and to increase the benefit to society in additional ways," says Raikes. He also points to technology's contributions to education, for example, in making learning more accessible and in approaches such as personalized learning.

"At the end of the day that's what could make technology a wonderful contribution...when it adds value in ways that can transform in the case of education, the learning experience, or in the case of health, the use of technology to be able to solve or address diseases that we were not able to address before," he says. "So this technology revolution is absolutely core to what we’re doing in philanthropy today."

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