The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Open
Society Institute (OSI), a part of the Soros Foundation network, have
teamed up with leading information providers ISIÒ
and SilverPlatter and other public and private partners to provide
access to high quality scientific information, via the Internet, to
research centres in countries in Africa, Central Asia and Eastern
Europe. Discussions are also under way with Elsevier Science to join the
This pilot project is part of a wider United Nations
programme called "Health InterNetwork" which aims to improve
global public health by facilitating the flow of health information
worldwide, using Internet technologies.
Based on the experience gained in the first pilot
year, the partnership will roll out, over five years, sustainable,
affordable scientific information packages to medical and health
research institutions in a large number of resource-strapped countries.
It is anticipated that by the end of year two, between 30 and 40
countries will have joined.
Research, and sharing the knowledge gained through
its efforts, is fundamental to improving public health. Scientific and
technical solutions do not yet exist for tackling many of the health
problems of the developing world. Yet only a small fraction of global
health research expenditure goes to research into diseases and health
issues that affect the poor, such as malaria, killer childhood diseases
and nutrition. One step towards changing this is to facilitate research
in the countries that have first-hand experience with these health
"Valuable research is carried out in developing
countries and emerging economies, but the researchers are hampered by
not being able to share essential scientific information and
communication," says Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO
"If the researchers and scientists can read the
same journals, search the same databases, join in the discussion groups,
compete for the same grants as their colleagues from wealthier
countries, it will strengthen their own research, bring them into the
international community of researchers and eventually improve
dissemination of their own results," she adds.
George Soros explains, "Through my Foundation I
have already committed significant resources to help bridge the digital
divide. Now I want to join forces with WHO and the world’s leading
scientific publishers to help provide information to the health sector
in emerging countries."
The pilot phase will enable researchers, teachers and
students at leading research institutions in Armenia, Ghana, Mali,
Mozambique, Mongolia, Uganda, Tanzania and Uzbekistan to access
top-of-the-line international scientific information in digital format,
and to integrate the world scientific community through electronic
The private partners and OSI will organize
comprehensive training for research staff. WHO, in collaboration with
the United Nations, will discuss with service providers in the eight
initial countries to provide high-speed connectivity to the Internet.
"ISIÒ is proud to
participate in WHO’s Health InterNetwork project," said Vin
Caraher, Senior Vice President Worldwide Sales & Marketing, ISIÒ
. "Now we are able to extend access to the ISIÒ
database to people in developing nations whose needs are so severe. We
look forward to working with WHO to train and assess the Project and we
expect that it will have a positive effect on public health research,
policies and care in many nations."
SilverPlatter’s Chief Executive Officer Alex Sann
explains, "I am extremely pleased and excited to be teaming with
our existing business partners and WHO/OSI on this important venture. It
is rewarding to assist research institutions in their quest to better
understand key health issues and we hope to apply the lessons learned to
further improve our product offerings."
The digital divide in information is a new problem,
requiring new approaches. This multi-sector collaboration is breaking
new ground within the field of scientific publishing by making all
concerned parties – including the users of the information – work in
concert to provide solutions that neither the public nor private sector
will be able to achieve on their own.