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Wiki Media, Expert Systems, Free Culture and Health Care: Imagining the Convergence Horizon in Developing Countries.

by Fred Fortin

The title of this post is a mouthful, I know. But I’m hoping that the murky possibilities embedded in this elongated title will stimulate finer minds than mine to think about the connections that could exist between these various fields of endeavors. I’m often drawn into these explorations by a long standing drive to find the edges where intractable problems (say, in health care) and the emerging (and often peripheral and below-the-radar) stew pot of new thinking bump up against each other –I must add doing so most when you’re not paying attention of course.

One of the exercises I like to do is to peak into radically different areas of culture, work, and intellectual thought with the objective of eventually asking the question of how the tropes, metaphors, and ideas that naturally float out of these circles of social activity can be applied to health care. An so, in delving into areas such as ‘new media’, I am continually asking the question of how could we use these cultural, artistic and technological thought streams to address health care needs in rural China, for example.

In article in this latest issue of Health Affairs (see my previous posts here and here on this issue of Health Affairs), Gardner et al. talks about technological and social innovation as a unifying new paradigm for global health. The authors explain that innovation takes three forms: the technological, the social and the adaptive. And they argue, “a strong capacity for both technological and social innovation in developing countries represents the only true sustainable means of improving the effectiveness of health systems.”

In a previous post, I wrote about how a number of people were pursuing a wiki approach as a device to building an early warning notification system for pandemics. But as I try to think this through, I see that effort as only the tip of a very beneficial iceberg.

So, here is one way to speak of the challenge that I see confronting us:

How can we combine the community values, social networking, and collective intelligence and information gathering of the wiki enterprise, with the critical science, professional competence and amplifying effect of expert systems, (take a deep breath) with the bold attempts to break down archaic or self-serving legal and political barriers to information the public needs — as symbolized possibly by the ‘Free Culture’ movement — in order to bring health care to the poor and rural populations in Asia or anywhere else for that matter?

It is a question, I believe, worth pursuing despite all of its complex interpretive, trans-disciplinary and trans-national complications.


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  Bill Ives wrote @ August 7th, 2007 at 6:15 pm

The spontaneous efforts that came up after Katrina and the flooding in South Asia are examples of how the new web and those who participate in it can cross political lines to provide help. Here is a link to a discussion of it - http://billives.typepad.com/portals_and_km/2005/09/katrina_peoplef.html In this case a few dedicated and smart volunteers did in a few days what the government was unable to do in several years - set up a common site to help find missing people. This same global collaboration cna be applied in many areas and has. See also the Global Voices project that the Harvard Berkman center has set up. You have a great blog. Thanks. Bill Ives

[…] to help us look at What are the underlying questions in our lives that Social Software may solve? Fred Fortin raises an interesting question in the spirit of Rob’s goal in his World Health Care […]

[…] Finder Project: Good Wiki Example August 7th, 2007 — Fred Fortin In response to a question I raised regarding the use of wiki media, expert systems, and strategies to access information important to […]

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