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Technology Alone Won’t Improve Health in Africa

Engineers deploy new apps and devices, but much remains to be done

3 min read
Technology Alone Won’t Improve Health in Africa
Ken Sakwa, a Ugandan with AIDS, is ambivalent about antiretroviral drugs. “They make you sick, and if they don’t work...I will die anyway,” he says.
Photo: G. Pascal Zachary

The swift technological response to the deadly Ebola virus highlights the power of new technologies to engage urgent human problems—and also reveals the limits to engineering solutions to emerging diseases.

Crises spawn innovations. In the face of seemingly unstoppable threats, new technologies are rushed into service, aided by removing normal constraints on adoption. New clinical trials are planned, resources mobilized. More risks are taken because humans facing death accept novel improvisations.

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
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Carl De Torres
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When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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