Monday, October 31, 2005

*Updates are here again*

Yes, one module down. The mock trial didn't go as smoothly as I hoped it would have but it's over and done with. The only alternative is to beat on myself for the next few hours while weeping and gnashing my teeth in the little corner of my room. But you, my readers, come first. And instead of the self-motification, I will instead give you something to read.

So... gives USD 258.3 million to malaria research worldwide

I've always admired Bill Gates the person (I don't quite like Microsoft the company but that's a separate story for a separate post on how the current IP regime hurts consumers and companies). The reason why is that he donates his OWN personal wealth towards making the world a better place. No fuzzy soft headed CSR for him unlike other companies where the shareholders' effectively pay for a better corporate image (without necessarily seeing an improvement in the bottomline).

Anyway, I think this new gift is remarkable seeing as he hadn't too long ago donated nearly half a billion dollars to crack the top ten problems of medicine and medical research. Particularly problems confined to the 3rd World where the lack of refrigeration and bad transportation infrastructure means that most common vaccines (which require refrigeration due to their liquid nature) don't even survive the trip to where they are needed. Worst still, because they are in liquid form, this requires injections which poses another can of worms when it comes to cost, health and safety issues (you simply can't share needles and disposals aren't cheap).

So the grant of money will work towards solving such problems e.g. vaccines that don't require refrigeration or injections. Apparently there is some work going on which can keep them in spore form to be absorbed through the nasal passages. Brilliant stuff - no need for refrigeration, easy to transport, no need for needles and easy to administer.

But what I am also very impressed by is how Gates has shifted his money away from solving the so-called digital divide. Originally the Gates and Melinda Foundation was created to solve the something known as the digital divide, that is there was a growing technological gao between the 1st and 3rd world when it came to things like computer literacy and access to the internet. But eventually, he came to realise that the digitial divide was nothing if you could not even live long enough to be affected by it.

No, I don't want to give the impression that I don't think the digital divide is a problem. BUT my personal take on this is that given limited recourses and the natural restrains that occur due to this constrain, a decision must be made so to how to best allocate these resources. I like Economics because it deals exclusively with this problem of scarsity and the way they encapsulate this is through something they call Opportunity Cost. So the 'cost' of focusing on the digital divide is the money that would otherwise have gone towards research on how to save lives in the 3rd world.

And furthermore, it's just that I do wonder if the focus on the digital divide has gone wrong. When you have problems with access to education, food, health, and are in the midst of a civil war, access to computers and the internet seem hardly the most important things to worry about. And even in rural communities, what seems to be most beneficial to these communities are low-cost handphones, radios and generators in order to get timely information on when to sell their produce.

As a parting point, the age of great capitalism (robber barons) was also the age of great philantrophy. I don't think this justifies the excess of such rampant capitalism but it's worth considering that even today, the top earners in the US donate more of their personal wealth to charity than anywhere else in the world.



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