USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah recently stated that many of today’s global challenges are shared, requiring “solutions that cross borders, sectors, and disciplines. Addressing these issues cannot be met without appropriate scientific knowledge and technological expertise.” The National Security Strategy reinforces this point, stating that the United States must leverage its scientific leadership and expand its cooperation and partnerships in science and technology. FY 2010 saw a scientific breakthrough in USAID’s cutting-edge, women-centered programming to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In July, the Center for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa achieved a huge leap forward in women-controlled HIV prevention through a clinical trial largely funded by USAID. The trial demonstrated that use of a microbicide gel containing the antiretroviral drug tenofovir can help prevent the transmission of HIV from men to women.
The Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development explicitly calls for investments in game-changing innovations that have the potential to solve long-standing development challenges. To achieve these innovations, the Directive emphasizes leveraging the power of research and development, capitalizing on new models for innovation, and working with developing countries to increase their utilization of science and technology. In line with this vision, the Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) was launched in October 2010, with awards to 8 companies and institutions totaling $1 million. The goal of these awards is to create innovative, scalable solutions to core development challenges.
The Department of State shares this focus on science and technology through its effort to leverage 21st century knowledge. For example, the Department pioneered a contest to develop the most innovative and useful mobile phone application. The winner of the contest was the iCOW, an application that assists East African farmers and ranchers to better manage breeding and birthing of livestock by tracking the estrous stages of their cows.
A laboratory technician in Tanzania prepares a blood smear at the government-run Ifakara Health Institute, where a pioneering vaccine against malaria is in its third phase of testing with support by USAID. Malaria claims around a million lives worldwide each year. ©AFP Image