Post by: Mark Godges and Ines Navarre, MIHDS students

Steven Ramsden works in the digital innovation and cybersecurity department at The Global Fund. The mission of this non-profit is to tackle large scale global health problems, and specifically three diseases – Malaria, AIDS, and tuberculosis. The organization works within 140 countries. It operates under the principle of “each dollar saves a life”, investing around 4 billion USD a year. 

Ahmed Riad is the Senior Director of Strategy and Industry Development at the leading provider of telecommunications technology, infrastructures and devices, Huawei. He works to integrate this organization as a global player on the market of telecommunications and digital infrastructure. 

Thomas Maillart is the president of Open Geneva, a non-profit whose mission is to promote innovation in Geneva by organizing events such as the Greater Geneva Open Innovation Festival. He is also the leader of the Geneva-Tsinghua Initiative, which gives students opportunities to address the UN SDGs. Maillart is also leading on two research projects on cybersecurity: Technology Forecasting and Market Monitoring for Cyber-Defence & Collective Intelligence for Good.

The speakers work to find innovative ways of approaching social goods, looking at the potential of digitization to improve health facilities. Ramsden is primarily responsible for building a new health infrastructure which can reach people worldwide digitally. An example of digital health systems working successfully is the case of South Korea in the early weeks of COVID. By applying digital infrastructure to the world of health, doctors can reach patients who would otherwise not have the physical capacity to make it to the hospital. Riad works on a global digital system which correlates three variables: SDGs, economy and digital readiness. His findings include a positive correlation between SDGs and spillovers, except for SDG 12 and 13. Ramsden and Maillart use this kind of innovative data in order to deliver impact in different ways, such as, improving procurement and supply chains, and promoting integrated, people centered health services, which are examples of key goals of The Global Fund. Furthermore, when implementing a digital parallel to the work of a sector, Ramsden and Maillart underscore the necessity of cybersecurity and confidentiality of information.

Several challenges emerged during the discussion. Ramsden highlighted the urgency to act as with COVID-19, the missions of The Global Fund are gaining importance. Additionally, Riad explained that, at a time of polarization and geopolitical tension at Huawei, focusing on points of agreement is crucial to maintain their growth sustainable in an international environment. Finally, some students were concerned about the ability of the global private sector to claim sustainability. Steven and Ahmed answered that it is currently impossible to do the work at their level without support from this sector, so they must make calculations and take the good with the bad.