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Bridging the gap

PUNE: A global event focusing on the progress made to achieve the millennium development goals, including eradicating extreme hunger and poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality and combating HIV/AIDS, drew students and citizens alike to the Symbiosis Institute of Computer Studies and Research in Model Colony on Monday.

Pune was one of the exclusive locations for a live broadcast of TEDxChange, a conference in New York hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which was broadcast simultaneously in more than 80 locations worldwide. The 90-minute event featured speakers such as the philanthropist Melinda Gates, who cited examples from the corporate world for governments trying to achieve their millennium goals.

In 2000, United Nations (UN) laid out eight ambitious, life-saving and life-enhancing goals with the hope of reaching them by the year 2015. These goals are eradicating extreme hunger and poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empower women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.

In an hour and a half, four speakers presented the world its report card, explaining what has been done and what needs to be done to help the world’s most vulnerable citizens.

Gates said that she and her team are looking to learn from corporates like soft drink companies which have so effectively infiltrated even the most remote areas of Africa and elsewhere.

“If they can get their product out to so many, how can agencies aimed at helping these same people replicate their impressive marketing and distribution methods,” asked Gates, adding, “We need to learn from the innovators.”

She explained that over the years they learned that companies get marketing numbers in real time, rather than after the fact when they are no longer useful. She said that this idea was used in India, when a boy contracted polio and a targeted vaccine campaign took shape within a month, possibly saving hundreds of lives.

Mechai Viravaidya, founder and chairman of the Population and Community Development Association, spoke about birth control and HIV/AIDS rates in his native Thailand. Another speaker was Hans Rosling, co-founder of the Gapminder Foundation, which focuses on international health and statistics.

“The child mortality rate is headed in the right direction. The best way to keep it going down is to keep families small the more the number of kids, the higher the infant mortality rate,” said Rosling.

The programme ended with remarks from Graca Machel, Mozambique’s former minister of education and culture and current head of the Foundation for Community Development. She pointed out that “everyone has a plan for our continent,” but the most effective plan must be primarily one “for Africa by Africans.”

Chief information officer Anupam Saraph and Sherbir Panag, director, The Col. Samsher Singh Foundation spoke about the role of citizens in achieveing MDG. Abhishek Suryawanshi, curator-TEDxPune and organiser of Simulcast thanked everyone for joining, and promised to have such an event again in future.

Source: The Times of India

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