Yesterday I attended an event organised by UK-based Inside Government. The half-day conference, entitled International Development: Improving Transparency and Enhancing Innovation through Partnership featured an impressive list of speakers from government departments, think tanks, NGOs and universities. With such a broad range of speakers, the conference inevitably touched upon an array of issues from the importance of research in development, to developing partnerships between NGOs and private companies, and the importance of local empowerment.
Clearly given the range of the conference, it would be difficult to cover everything. Two talks that caught my attention in particular were on m-health initiatives in China and the role of trade unions in development. Ian Leslie of Cambridge University provided a brief overview of the state of mobile health in China and beyond. In China, an app allowing patients to book medical appointments has cut down the number of missed appointments and increased efficiency within the health system. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), meanwhile, have developed a $2 clip-on mobile eye-piece that can be used to detect and estimate refractive errors in the eye. The potential of these and other applications in China – the world’s single largest market – is immense and exciting.
In the final talk of the day, Owen Tudor from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) spoke about the role played by trade unions in development. Across the globe, national trade union movements have consistently campaigned for improved human rights, working rights and living wages. While often not viewed through a development perspective, thousands of unions engage day-in-day-out to improve the lives of workers across the world and hold governments to account.