The Foreign Service Journal, September 2009

medicine beyond current one-to-one, patient-to-doctor or doctor-to-doctor interactions. As an open, global communications network, the Internet provides a mechanism to facilitate such ex- changes. But without IT solutions and systems — such as a database of ex- perts categorized by medical specialty, a communication forum to post in- quiries and address questions to spe- cific experts, and a searchable reposi- tory of previous inquiries — this can- not happen. These are not trivial tools or solu- tions to develop. But with cloud com- puting services, a development agency can put together all the pieces neces- sary to get a system of this nature up and running in relatively short order and with a relatively modest initial in- vestment. In this way, a medical pro- fessional in a village in Bangladesh with a patient suffering from an infectious wound could instantly correspond with other doctors within the region and be- yond who may have more experience with such a case. Another challenge in the health- care sphere in rural areas is ongoing patient services. This was a major roadblock in South Africa in 2004, when the government decided to ad- minister antiretroviral drugs to all HIV patients who had developed AIDS. Implementing this policy required health authorities to be able to track drug regimens and monitor the effect of the drugs on each patient. To do this, the International Devel- opment Research Center, in partner- ship with local organizations, funded the deployment of an information technology system. Using this system, clinic staff can now enter patient data on computers or hand-held devices. These electronic medical records are sent daily, over the Internet, to a cen- tral location where patients are moni- tored for resistance to the drugs. The system also gives clinicians reminders for patient care. With cloud computing, it is possible to set up patient care systems similar to the one funded by the International Development Research Center in South Africa in rural areas throughout the developing world — without re- quiring clinics to buy and manage all the hardware and software. Microfinance. Development or- ganizations have long recognized that an effective way to help alleviate ex- treme poverty — another one of the goals adopted by the United Nations — is to inject a business mindset into local communities. Over the last decade, microfinance has proven to be a great catalyst for small-business en- trepreneurs in developing countries. Yet despite the buzz, there are sig- nificant challenges in scaling this fi- S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 9 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 49