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Create Low-Cost Cell Phone-Based Applications for Priority Global Health Conditions (Round 6)



The UN predicts that cell-phone ownership will reach 5 billion in 2010, with most growth occurring in the developing world.  This proliferation of cell phones and connectivity offers an unprecedented opportunity to access vast populations, including previously hard-to-reach populations in rural areas.  Cell phones also provide previously unavailable capabilities in the developing world, including computational power, text and image displays, imaging, incentive structures, and standardized interfaces that can be leveraged to create powerful systems.  With this GCE topic we seek innovative, high-impact global health solutions that leverage these capabilities towards our existing global health priorities.

What We Are Looking For:

We seek proposals that leverage the cell phone towards innovative, high-impact, and sustainable global health solutions for the world’s poorest people.  We seek proposals that are "off the beaten track," daring in premise, and clearly different from the approaches currently being developed or employed.  Proposals must (i) have a testable hypothesis, (ii) include an associated plan for how the idea would be tested or validated, and (iii) yield interpretable and unambiguous data in Phase I, in order to be considered for Phase II funding. 

Considerations for applicants:

  • Applicants should have a clear idea of the cellular infrastructure in the targeted geographical area, and propose solutions that do not require connectivity beyond the current system;  
  • Applications must have a clear hypothesis and an associated plan for how their idea would be tested or validated; 
  • Applications should have a high impact for health interventions, providing support to significant end-user populations – this might include solutions that directly assist large or strategically-significant populations, or provide large leverage for health workers or decision makers; 
  • Applications should consider the particular needs of target populations, such as literacy, and cultural impact;
  • Applications that include health interventions should provide a discussion of how the intervention would be sustainable and scalable in the developing world.   

A few of the many specific examples to be considered include:

  • Novel and innovative ideas that utilize cell phones and payment systems to create incentives for sustainable global health interventions;
  • Novel cell phone-based solutions for high-impact data collections from previously-unreachable or unavailable populations in the developing world;
  • Medical diagnostics that uniquely leverage cell-phone and adhere to the ASSURED criteria: Affordable by those at risk, Sensitive, Specific, User-friendly (simple to perform with minimal training), Rapid andRobust, Equipment-free or minimal equipment, and Delivered to those who need it. (Details available in the Round 4 GCE Create Low-Cost Diagnostics for Priority Global Health Conditions Topic);
  • Innovative solutions that improve distribution systems and data collection for global health interventions, such as vaccination and drug delivery; 
  • High impact and innovative patient and data management applications for health workers or decision-makers that provide very large improvements over the current systems, or provide previously unavailable capabilities;
  • Information and decision tools that target key populations and uniquely leverage cell-phone technologies.

We will not consider funding for:

  • The development of technical solutions that will provide only modest or incremental improvements in health outcomes or provide benefit in non-strategic populations;
  • Product development proposals that lack a hypothesis or an innovation that can be tested, at least in part, during Phase I;
  • Automation of existing tools without a clear advantage in cost or reach;
  • The development of a technical improvement with little relevance or impact on one or more of the priority global health strategies of the foundation;
  • The development of applications targeted to diagnostics of chronic non-infectious diseases (including diabetes, asthma, cancer, etc.), as well as life-style guided applications for weight loss, fitness, etc.;
  • Tools that only "increase communication" between health workers and patients without a high-impact hypothesis;
  • Minor or low-impact improvements to existing cell-phone-based, or telemedicine applications.

Grants will be selected on ability to create impact in the context of our existing global health priorities. For more information on The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's priority global health conditions, please click here.  

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is part of the Grand Challenges partnership network. Visit www.grandchallenges.org to view the map of awarded grants across this network and grant opportunities from partners.