15-16 JUNE 2016 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Science and innovation for development

<p>Science, technology and innovation have been a vital drive for our societies.</p> <p>In these important times of global change, where the sustainability of our planet is a challenge and establishing a decent human life worldwide is essential, science and technology have a lot to say.</p> <p>This session will bring hands-on examples on what the technologies of communication and information have been doing in recent years by tackling developmental challenges, and more specifically how they have alleviated poverty in isolated areas of developing countries and how they have worked in those areas where sustainability is critical.</p> <p>TUCAN3G, an FP7 project on mobile communications for rural areas, will be explained as example of the challenges that still need to be addressed and the latest research lines in this matter. After explaining the communications solutions available, the session will focus on innovative telemedicine tools that can make the difference in these environments.&nbsp;</p> <p>The session will also raise awareness on the vital role the technologies of communication and information have in the developing world.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
Lab 6
Session type: 
Project Presentation
Wednesday, November 27, 2013 -
14:30 to 15:45
Key Points: 
  • Telecommunications are bringing medical services to remote areas, saving lives and money.
  • The future of such services lies in mobile technology, but the challenge is to come up with a convincing business model.
  • Health kits can provide vital, affordable prenatal services to women.



With the help of telecommunications technology, doctors can examine and diagnose patients in remote areas, who may be hours of travel away, without moving from their surgeries or offices. Lives - and money - can be saved by prompt and accurate diagnoses, and unnecessary travel avoided. This session focused on two projects, one in the Napo river of Peru and the other in a remote area of Guatemala, initiated by the EHAS Foundation.

EHAS has been experimenting with technological solutions to the provision of medical services since the 1990s. Starting with radio, it moved on to the Internet and Wi-Fi connections and is now seeking to exploit the possibilities of mobile technology.

Wi-Fi has enabled the transmission of images, film and video-conferencing. In the Napo valley, health technicians, with a level of training below that of a nurse, have been instructed in the use of quite sophisticated medical equipment under the guidance of a doctor who may be many kilometres away.

In the case of mobile technology, the main challenge is to create a viable business model that will attract the providers of mobile services. ‘The future is in mobile devices. The problem is that for the operator there is no interest because we are talking of low income and low density populations, from which it would be hard to get a commercial return,’ said Ignacio Prieto Egido, Project Director, EHAS Foundation.

The mobile operators use base stations and satellite uplinks that are expensive. EHAS, together with its partners, is working on a project that may help to convince the mobile operators that such services can be economically viable. The Peruvian project, known as TUCAN3G, will use femocells, which are cheaper, lower-powered, cellular base stations. One proposal is to share some of the available bandwidth with other users, thus making the system more economically sustainable.

Millions of children die each year before the age of five from easily preventable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and diarrhoea. About 400,000 women die every year in pregnancy, nearly all of them in low-income countries. With the help of a portable health kit comprising a computer, an ultrasound scanning device, batteries and small portable solar panels, prenatal services are being offered in the remote Alta Verapaz region of Guatemala in a project initiated by EHAS. The kit costs some EUR 3,500, but this works out to about EUR 25 per test, which is not an unsustainable cost, even for poorer developing countries.


Technology has a crucial role to play in extending the benefits of sustainable social development, including health services, to poor isolated communities. But technology is not neutral and it is important that these communities accept it and do not see it as an imposition. Technology can help reduce the costs of delivering services, but more work needs to be done on questions of sustainability and maintenance.

  • Health

    Poverty generates ill health, and poor health, in turn, increases vulnerability and poverty. The growing burden of non-communicable diseases increasingly also affects the poor. However, reducing the burden of infectious diseases remains essential and a prerequisite to reduce malnutrition. Controlling diseases is also a key element for economic growth. Therefore, the EU is strongly committed to increasing equitable access to quality health services in developing countries, whilst ensuring social protection against the financial risks of disease, strengthening social inclusion and boosting global health.

    In line with its Communication on ‘The EU Role in Global Health’, the EU pursues a rights-based approach to health and provides support to developing countries to develop their health policies. Support is also given to strengthen health systems and ensure that health is appropriately considered in other policies, in order to reduce inequalities in health and in access to healthcare, to improve the quality of care, to provide more comprehensive services and to protect against the financial risks of excessive health costs – also ensuring that women’s health concerns are appropriately considered.

    While the EU is a major supporter of global health initiatives – such as the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, and the GAVI Alliance for Immunisations – and of the specialised UN organisations – such as the World Health Organization – the main focus of the EU’s assistance in the health sector is to provide support directly to partner countries and support countries’ own efforts to achieve universal health coverage.

    In the Communication ‘An Agenda for Change’ on EU development policy, the EU confirms its commitment to health by announcing that at least 20 % of its 2014-20 aid budget will be allocated for human development and social inclusion, including health. Furthermore, the 2013 Communication on the post-2015 global development goals sets out the EU’s intention to provide a balanced approach to poverty eradication and sustainable development, ensuring basic living standards, including health, for all.