(From about a year ago – somehow this never made it into the blogosphere)
I just read that much of Bill Gates’ international health initiative has been about as much of a high-tech boondoggle and waste of effort as his education initiatives here in the US.
For example, in trying to solve the problem of human waste disposal (ie human poop and pee) in poor nations where people make $1-$5 per day, his researchers came up with high-tech commodes costing thousands of dollars and probably requiring lots of maintenance. Excuse me for stating the obvious, but nobody is going to pay five to twenty years’ annual income for an outhouse or toilet!
I’m not making this up. See http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/11/19/opinion/bill-gates-cant-build-a-toilet.html?_r=1
By the way, my humorous profile picture is of a composting toilet I built up at the Hopewell observatory out of two plastic cat-litter containers (free), a toilet seat ($10?), a piece of wood and a few screws. You put in some wood chips or dead leaves after you are done. When it gets full, you dump it in a designated place. It doesn’t stink. I personally wouldn’t use the resulting compost to grow food, but there are parts of the world where such “night soul” is highly valued. (My solution is not original: here is one writeup http://weblife.org/humanure/chapter8_2.html )
Gates recently held a meeting in Seattle where he admitted most of his high tech initiatives on third world health had failed.
One of the initiatives involved cholera. Were they completely unaware that for at least 20 years a very cheap and simple way to rehydrate cholera victims and restore their electrolytes has been in use in many third world countries?