Positive Disruption report

New research released by the Pathways for Prosperity Commission on Technology and Inclusive Development argues that well-considered investments in digital technology can improve health and education services across the developing world, but too often they fail to deliver impact at scale.

An integral part of the Blavatnik School’s research portfolio, the Commission’s new report, Positive disruption: health and education in a digital age, has found that initiatives focussing only on technological hardware, such as introducing laptops in classrooms, are often not effective beyond the initial pilot. This is usually due to policy makers adopting a piecemeal approach, which fails to consider the wider system in which the technology is being used.

However, the research finds that by looking at entire health and education systems, and deploying technology at strategic points, countries can provide health and education that works for all.

Professor Stefan Dercon, academic director of the Commission and professor at the Blavatnik School of Government, said: “Done right, digital investments can take advantage of technology’s massive potential, but failing to harness these opportunities risks further excluding the poorest. Directing funds towards technologically-enhanced health and education systems and the right digital connectivity can unlock benefits that could be transformational for the way clinics and classrooms operate in the future.” 

The report highlights evidence from around the world where well-judged investments in technology are transforming health and education outcomes, bringing case studies from Mali, Uganda, Kenya and more. It also offers four core principles to support funders and policymakers in avoiding inappropriate adoption and poor implementation of technology, as well as five future digital scenarios that are realistically achievable for developing countries.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Pathways Commission, said: “Better health and education for young people – the twin engines of what economists call ‘human capital’ – could drive the next phase of economic progress in developing countries, but only if governments design policies to ensure technology reaches the most marginalised communities.”