Health

Cities which use technology to provide a better quality of life to its people are following the right path to become smart and prosperous.

Barcelona, Spain

A few months on the first 5G networks started operating in the United States and China, the technology market is already gearing up for the massive impact of hypervelocity networks and the Internet of Things (IoT) in everyday life in cities. For many experts, the revolution has already started: we have reached the era of 5G cities where smartphones, drones, cars and connected industries will be the tools for governments to predict the future. Most cities’ main goal is to create an environment where people can thrive to face less inequality and bureaucracy, and have more access to information regarding their rights and the public services they are entitled to.

“The age of connectivity has been reached and will benefit billions of citizens around the world,” says Mats Granrys, general director of the GSM Association, the European trade body which represents mobile operators. In practice, while 5G is still waiting for organizations and governments’ approval of technical specifications, top US and European phone operators have entered an aggressive race to turn cities into technological hubs.

Vodafone, which is doing 5G tests in Milan, Italy, aiming at providing the city with 80% coverage, is one of them. The project is to transform Milan into a data lab, using interconnected drones and fixed cameras to oversee mobility and security. Vittorio Colao, CEO of Vodafone Group, foresees technologies such as digitally-integrated ambulances with hospitals, where remote consultations and vital data exchange will help to make the rescue process more efficient and speedy. Cameras and drones also improve event management and act as support for city security by allowing authorities to create alternative traffic routes in real time, for example. Together with the local government, Vodafone is also working with small entrepreneurs on the project. “The idea is to create an ecosystem of experimentation. Technology can be the great solution to generate more productivity, business and jobs in cities”, he says.

Jean Pierre Bienaime, general secretary of the European infrastructure association 5GIA, says cities like Barcelona in Spain and Bristol in the United Kingdom, are the next smart 5G cities. “From measuring the environmental impact of pollution to digital monitoring and automatic management of ports, there will be a radical transformation in public and private management”, he affirms. Bienaime believes that cities must focus on Public/Private Partnerships to ensure the success of the initiatives.

Companies, in particular telephone operators, are taking the first steps in regional data analytics initiatives with the potential to become smarter with technology. Telefonica, for example, inaugurated a project in São Paulo, Brazil, that uses traffic data to predict high levels of air contamination up to 48 hours in advance. The system uses the signals emitted by smartphones to draw a matrix of mobility and understand the pattern of people’s displacement. “As urban traffic is a key predictor of pollution, we have been able to identify the problem before it happens,” says Pedro Alarcon, Head of Telefonica in the Big Data for Social Good area. He adds that the project was born as a sustainability action but ended up becoming a marketable product, thanks to the government’s interest in acquiring the service. “The next steps with the arrival of the 5G networks will be to implement the IoT to be even more precise,” he says.

One of the benefits of the new generation of Internet, according to 5GAI’s Bienaime, is the wide coverage of networks and the minimization of service failures. In Brazil, for example, the association is developing international cooperation projects in remote regions, with the goal of bringing connectivity and the internet of things to benefit sectors such as agriculture.

In a speech in February this year at the Mobile World Congress, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim highlighted the role of the mobile industry in economic growth and the end of inequality. “Smartphones are dream accelerators,” he says. The presence of mobile networks and connected devices in communities in poor countries, he explains, enables communities to access new business, as well as education and autonomy.

Yong Kim cites such examples as Manila in the Philippines where a public-private initiative for open data was launched to monitor traffic, which generates daily losses of more than $ 60 million, or India, where data points to the regions of cities most affected by pollution and allow institutions to invest in housing and the environment. “The internet of things can unite us to reduce extreme poverty,” he says.

Many of these social innovation projects are laboratories for operators to work with broader solutions in cities and regions with different profiles, regardless of the degree of economic development. “By combining mobility data with other sources, operators can create a business case to support decision making and planning by governments and NGOs,” says Granrys from GSM Association.

The Asian city was recently named top country for meeting UN health goals and has already achieved 4 of the 17 sustainable development goals. Here’s the story.

Singapore has already achieved 4 of the 17 sustainable development goals

The year is 2015. A coalition of countries, Singapore included, have adopted the UN Sustainable Development Goals and two years later 43 of them presented Voluntary National Reviews in which they committed to specific goals. Despite the regional and national commitments, many countries are still far from reaching the voluntary goals they set for 2030 but some are taking a straightforward path. Singapore is one of them.

According to the SDG Index and Dashboard Report, Singapore has already reached four out of the 17 SDGs (1, 7, 8 and 9), the highest number in all South and East Asia. The city-state is also closer than any other country to meeting health-related targets, according to a global health review published by The Lancet Medical Journal last September. Singapore is now placed at the 61st position out of 167 countries in the SDG Index.

Its Achilles’ heel is the import of emissions, including nitrogen and carbon dioxide, which is common in small countries due to their need to import and trade goods. In order to improve this scenario, Singapore should whether diversify its economy or set trade policies so the imported goods would be more sustainable.

As for the other SDGs, Singapore is clearly investing in reducing gender inequalities, promoting education and strengthening institutions. The literacy rate has now reached 99,9% and the rate of female labor participation in the workforce is over 76%. The quality of institutions and the safety of the population is one of the highest in the world.

The evolution is ongoing. The city is making an effort to host more events related to the SDGs, such as the Unleash Innovation Lab, next May, and the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum, SIGEF 2018, Horyou’s main SDGs event, next September. In addition to bringing diversity and innovation, the events help the city to become known as an SDG-friendly place and a hub for ideas and actions to attain the goals.

A new member of Horyou platform, the Haiti Cholera Research Funding Foundation (HCRFF) invests in education and awareness to prevent health issues in developing countries

Pierrette Cazeau

Despite being born in Haiti, Pierrette Cazeau grew up in New York and Florida, in the US, and thus was never aware of the country’s challenges until she first visited it as a grown up-woman. She was struck by the challenges faced by its population on a daily basis – lack of health infrastructure, corruption, abuse, poverty and hunger. That changed her life as she decided to devote her time and efforts to build a Foundation and use education to prevent such disasters as the 2010 cholera outbreak.

«You can’t predict natural disasters or climate change effects, but you can educate people to prevent and reduce poverty. Without education, you just open the door to the negative effects of the unpredictable», says Pierrette, founder of HCRFF. The NGO was created in 2013 and has since developed many projects to support and empower communities facing health and social problems. «We’ve seen so many victimized people sitting quietly, and that escalates anger and hate». Economic and social problems, she believes, are part of a cycle that comprises disruption, refugee crisis and racism.

Syphilis Project

Focusing on education, the foundation organizes workshops for students coming from challenging backgrounds. In addition to preparing them for work via professional education, and providing them with food, HCRFF also raises awareness of topics like HIV prevention (PrEP and PEP), sexual abuse and other sensitive topics that are critical for the new generations. The NGO also helps Haitians to get access to health care in the US by providing them with transportation, shelter, advocacy and even translation services whenever needed. It also supports pregnant Haitian women left behind by UN peacekeeping soldiers.

The next step is to expand the Foundation services to other countries including Ghana, in Africa, where it intends to start an education campaign on HIV and other STDs. «We need more sponsors as we never charge anything for the services we provide to the communities», says Pierrette. For the last three years, the NGO has been funded by partners, but new sources of financial support are needed. One of the plans is to organize a Marathon for People Living with HIV and raise funds for the cause of education for prevention. «One thing I’ve learned from my father is that education can’t be taken from you. It stays with you forever. I’m grateful for all the educational opportunities I’ve had and I wish more people keep benefitting from it as well».

The host city of SIGEF 2018 is a reference in MedTech and new technologies as indeed Singapore aims to be at the upfront of a promising market with the right setup to attract both investors and innovators.

(Photo: RENDY ARYANTO/VisualVerve.SG)

Singapore is home to more than 60 MedTech companies which are mainly focused on research to develop new and innovative health care approaches. It is, indeed, a promising market. According to the Singapore Economic Development Board, the Asian medical technology market is expected to be the world’s second-largest by 2020, with a promise of a better life expectancy and quality of life.

In the last few years, the government has made a big effort to build a welcoming infrastructure for these businesses, either by investing in patient care based on a talent pool with big data and analytics skills, or by developing a supportive ecosystem which counts on research institutions, universities and startups, all of which provides the MedTech companies with a rich and fruitful research and development hub.

This ecosystem allows for companies like Tictrac – an app developing company which focuses on tracking health data and giving tips and information to its users -, to come up with solutions for patients with diabetes and other chronic diseases. In a recent interview, Martin Blinder, Tictrac CEO, confided that: “It is for people to find reliable information about the best way to reduce risk and improve their health. After meeting their doctor, people go home with some very high-level information, often go online and end up finding a lot of contradictory information or dangerous fat diets”. The company has a partnership with the Singaporean Ministry of Health, which aims to use more technology to prevent and manage diseases.

The successful combination of a friendly environment for MedTech innovation and public-private partnerships has pushed many companies to be more willing to invest in this market. In the last few years, a number of Singaporean IT businesses have set up MedTech operations in order to profit from the market’s good prospects. The electronic manufacturer Venture Corp is one of them and has been shifting their investment to LifeSciences and Medical Technologies, which now represent 43% of their revenues.

In a speech at a MedTech event last year, the Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran stressed the importance of investing in new health care technologies knowing that populations are getting old and that artificial intelligence is taking over most industries. “We know that the nature of jobs is changing profoundly, as technology and automation play an increasing role in driving innovation and operations,” he said. “We need to transform our societies and economies to become more age-friendly, and turn longevity into a positive force for economic and social development.”

The host city of SIGEF2018 next September is thus the perfect place to bring together innovators and entrepreneurs from all over the world. Organized by Horyou, it will include a special panel on MedTech.

As the team leader of the Global Perspectives Studies from FAO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Lorenzo Bellù studies the impact of agriculture in our daily lives. Is humanity threatened by mass food production techniques? Should we all go organic? I talked to him and brought you answers to these and other questions.

Photo: UNDP

Regarding the Zero Hunger goal, how can we overcome the challenge to produce healthy food for all?

I understand healthy food as safe food, which means is not poisonous or damaging, and then containing sufficiently nutrients, vitamins and proteins. On the other side, it is a healthy combination of healthy food. You can use healthy food and have an unhealthy diet. I’m saying that in terms of abuse of animal proteins, for example. Food may be healthy but the way you use it or abuse it can be unhealthy.

That being said, how to produce healthy food for an ever-growing global population?

There is a debate about whether farmers should use organic versus conventional techniques. I’m not against organic, but a key question is whether producing organic food is something that can actually feed the planet now and in the future. This question is an issue that still needs to be researched. Having said that, this doesn’t mean conventional agriculture doesn’t require investigation. In general, we need to identify sustainable ways of producing to achieve the SDGs, but we don’t have the answers. Moving food along the sustainable pattern require investigation, investment, commitment.

Are technology and social innovation helping with providing solutions to the increasing global demand for food?

We are going to face several challenges, one of them is in front of us, how to produce more food with fewer resources – water, land and greenhouse gas emissions. Technology may help us to use less water or using it in a more efficient way, it is something that may evolve a lot. But this requires knowing the moment when crops need water and the quantity. So technology can help with finding ways of dealing with antimicrobial resistance. The use and abuse of chemicals, medicaments, antibiotics to deal with animals and plants diseases cause resistance. Technology can discover new remedies ant the better use of the current ones.

Conventional agriculture has shown limitation in terms of excess withdrawal of water, fertility of soils, what has been useful so far to feed global expanding population now cannot be on the future, we are facing deflation of biodiversity. We must change the way of doing and producing things by spreading existing knowledge, investing more in research and development, infrastructure, know-how and expertise of people. We don’t have preconceived solutions. To move around these ways you need political commitment, private investment and the participation of all actors.

What is the role of consumers and their personal choices in order to push for a more sustainable agriculture?

I believe that the role of consumers is crucial now and it’s going to be crucial in the future. First of all, the consumer can decide to move personal diets into more healthy food. In developed countries, for example, where there is an excess of animal products consumption, we can move to more sustainable diets, because animal processing is very intense on gas emissions. (By eating too many animal products), I am not going to help myself and other people and I put pressure on the market, contributing to raising prices. Consumers are sovereign, what they decide can influence production and is going to be crucial to go on the sustainable path.

Many experts and influencers advocate for organic, regional, seasonal food. Is it part of the solution to make agriculture more sustainable?

It’s important to rely on trustworthy information and not ‘fake news’ sources concerning food. On internet you find everything, consumers have to be informed but not trapped getting wrong signals. Not all the websites are the same. But I believe consumers who want to privilege organic food may have their right to do that. I believe the awareness is a key factor also in pushing production techniques. I’m not saying that local food intended as self-sufficiency of small, regional areas is necessarily more sustainable than traditional. To some extent, exchange of food across different zones may help increase sustainability, so you are not forced to produce some kinds of food. If you live in a zone where water and land are under stress, there is no need to produce that to fulfill needs. So it doesn’t exist simple solutions to complex problems. But consumers who want strawberries in winter time need to know it’s not advisable. If they want cherries in December in Europe and they’re coming from Australia, it’s not environmentally sound. You can consume other things. We need to be wiser about what the implications are.

What should we be aware of working conditions and other social impacts of agriculture?

When we eat food at cheaper prices, we don’t count externalities like footprints as transport cost and pollution. We don’t fully internalize the costs of gas emissions. The food is cheap, I consume it, but environmentally and socially it may not be cheap. Prices are signals the consumer receive, but the cost of polluting water sources may not be reflected in these prices. Food may come at cheaper prices because people work with indecent wages and conditions. In some parts of the world, labor conditions are not acceptable, that’s why FAO push member countries do adopt legislation to impose decent working conditions. FAO avocates for responsible investment in agriculture, respect for the environment, local values, right to food, access to resources to small holders. It may imply higher costs, but the consumers have to be aware of what they consume and if it comes from countries which actually respect these conditions. If we move in that direction we may be close to achieve the SDGs.

Horyou is a strong supporter of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This article highlights challenges and solutions for SDG12 – Responsible consumption and production.

Cancer is still a taboo in many parts of the world. Especially in Asia, where there is an urgent need to raise awareness of the disease and to support people cannot afford to get the right treatment. For 10 years now, EMPOWERED – The Cancer Advocacy Society of Malaysia, has acted on these critical issues, helping and enlightening communities who are suffering from the lack of information and hope. In this interview with Wallance Cheong, project executive at EMPOWERED, a new member of our Horyou platform, shares the values and missions of this organization with our community.

Empowered team during Colorectal Cancer Awareness, Screening & Treatment Project

When was Empowered founded?

EMPOWERED was officially registered with the Registrar of Societies Malaysia in 2008 and is governed by an Executive Committee Board consisting of elected volunteers. It was founded by Dr. Christina Ng, a Consultant Medical Oncologist and our program started from year 2009 onwards. The organization is an ally of the poor who are afflicted with cancer.  EMPOWERED is committed to helping them to cope with cancer and life through the society’s many structured and personalized programs, and we bring these programs right into their homes. Our mission is to save lives, to prevent cancer and eliminate suffering amongst the poor.

Empowered’s Milestones

Your organization raises awareness of a condition that is considered taboo by many. How do you set the tone to discuss it with the general public?

The cancer awareness level, particularly in Asia, remains a challenge and some may perceive cancer as a taboo to be discussed. All the myths and misunderstandings about cancer are generally due to the lack of the right education and knowledge. Thus, we constantly raise public awareness and advocacy through our tailored campaigns and projects, educational exhibitions and talks, workshops etc. Furthermore, in accordance with society’s vision and mission, we actually bring these programs and supports right into the underprivileged communities home. We enable our EMPOWERED professionals to touch the hearts of the public.

Colorectal Cancer Awareness, Screening & Treatment Project

Do you have any plans and projects for 2018 that you would like to share?

We will carry out our annual signature campaign – Colorectal Cancer Awareness, Screening and Treatment Project (CCASTP) 2018. However, unlike previous practice, we would like to heighten public awareness level of cancer issues by organizing a Charity Run. The run is planned to be carried out in November, in conjunction with EMPOWERED’s 10th Anniversary and the Lung Cancer Month, and we are expecting about 2,000 people to join us.

You are a new organization in our Community. Tell us about your expectations and projects for Horyou.

We understand Horyou is an esteemed, established platform and action-oriented social network for the social good; EMPOWERED is honoured to join as a member of this big family. As time goes by, we expect to reach a wider public, raise public awareness and advocacy of cancer and generate funding and support for the sustainability of EMPOWERED’s projects with the aid of Horyou. 

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