Improving healthcare access and wellness for underserved populations around the globe - these are the aims of John Sargent. DW's Manuela Kasper-Claridge talks to him in Davos about capitalism and sustainability.
DW: You are a social entrepreneur and work mostly in South Africa. Why are you here at the World Economic Forum?
John Sargent: Well, it's an honor and a privilege to be here. We were very fortunate from the Schwab Foundation to win Social Entrepreneurs for 2015, so it's part of that award that we are allowed to come to Davos. My hope is that we meet interesting people and potentially form partnerships that can help our organization scale in the future.
What does your organization "BroadReach Healthcare" do?
Our mission is to improve access to healthcare for people who don't have that and our focus is primarily sub-Saharan Africa for the last 13 years, although we worked in India and other markets. And really the last three years, we've evolved into a software company. What we realized working in remote clinics in Africa, in India and other places was that nobody had the right information at the right time to make the best decisions. So often you go to a clinic and there are long lines of patients standing outside. There is no medicine or the doctor is not there.
If all the people had the right information, we could solve these problems. So we have a software platform BroadReach Analytics, which allows government officials, donors, NGOs and even private companies to better monitor, understand what's going on in the health system. Which clinics are performing, which ones aren't. We're now getting into predictive analytics. We can start predicting: Is there going to be an epidemic coming in the next 12 months. And all these tools, the software helps people plan better, spend money more effectively and ultimately have a much better impact on the patients that we serve.
Why is your focus sub-Saharan Africa?
We started there because we focused originally on HIV. We started in 2003. At that time there was a massive epidemic. It still is there but it's come a long ways in HIV and AIDS and we decided that if there was an area that we could contribute to and make a difference in the world focusing on HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa made the most sense for us. So we started there but we've grown quite a bit. We've worked in about 25 countries around the world and our hope is to really expand with our software into other markets.
The combination of tech and social innovation seems to be very important nowadays?
Absolutely, and I'm hoping that the next five years are going to be a big one for social entrepreneurs and social innovation. The challenge we face is that we are in resource-poor settings. We're using paper-based systems that were invented in the 1940s and the 1950s and we're trying to solve big issues.
And at the same time in the developed markets - US, Europe - there has been a lot of progress in technology, a lot of progress in techniques and approaches to solving and disrupting industries at a much lower price point. So we're trying to bring a lot of those ideas into the markets. Definitely in the last couple of years there has been a big wave in movement in this direction.
Now being here in Davos at the World Economic Forum, do you think that the traditional model of capitalism is kind of outdated?
I'm a medical doctor by background. So I'm not an economist but I think what we've learned is that it's hard to do things unless there is a sustainable model behind it. You can't always rely on grants.
Michael Porter from Harvard Business School has done a lot of very interesting work saying that if you create sustainable business models that are focusing on solving social problems, that ultimately is sort of the new way and that is sort of a way for companies and capitalism to not only create wealth but to actually make a difference in the world. So we subscribe to that.
John Sargent is part of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. The foundation provides platforms at the regional and global level to highlight and advance models of sustainable social innovation.