Having been in my new role as President of VillageReach only a few weeks, each day is filled with new “firsts.” First staff meeting, first attempt to work the phone system (failed), first presentation (so-so). Among them was my first—but certainly not last—Final Mile Logistics Working Group Happy Hour hosted by Lynden International. At VillageReach, we focus on increasing access to quality healthcare for those living in the most difficult-to-reach and underserved communities where basic, routine health care delivery is a huge challenge. For us, supply chain and logistics are essential elements of addressing that challenge, so it was great to meet and talk with representatives and leading thinkers from Puget Sound-area companies and our WGHA colleagues who share our interest, have a passion for new ideas, and apply them on a global scale. Who better to help us think through the challenges and opportunities of last mile delivery?
My colleague, Dr. Olivier Defawe, gave a presentation on VillageReach’s work to develop the capability of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (aka “drones”) to deliver vaccines and other essential medicines and devices to the vast roadless areas of sub-Saharan Africa. It’s an innovation early in development, but the potential is huge. Where current delivery and transport of medicines, supplies and time-sensitive tests can take weeks and months by motorbike, canoe, or truck, appropriate application of UAVs may be able to reduce that time to only a matter of hours. Through lively discussion the supply and logistics experts in attendance shared ideas and insights, and expressed a strong interest in continuing to help us advance this technology, and to ensure the appropriate application of it. We have a ways to go before unleashing the true potential of “drones for good,” but Seattle is at the epicenter of this innovation. VillageReach is making a significant contribution to the research and evidence on appropriate and sustainable use of UAVs in the last mile context, and it is exciting to see how this work is helping to shape and influence the global conversation.
No doubt there will be many more “firsts” to come before this technology is accepted and integrated into routine systems, but I am inspired by the collaboration of stakeholders – both local and global who are sharing information and ideas in a way that true innovation is born; through partnership. I imagine the first day when UAVs are used routinely to pick-up and deliver life-saving medicines and supplies, and I am confident that this progress will be due in part to contributions from this Seattle coalition, including VillageReach. Being at the forefront of cutting edge global health innovation is one of the aspects that drew me to VillageReach in the first place. I look forward to seeing how this work will continue to evolve through the collective contributions of the private sector, governments, academia and other NGOs. It certainly is exciting to have a seat at the table – be it at the next Final Mile Logistics Working Group event, or a global convening of UAV innovators.
I want to thank Lynden for their interest and for convening this group of local supply chain and global health leaders. I look forward to future events.
If you would like to join the Final Mile Logistics Working Group, please join us through the Facebook page.