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How ‘leapfrogging’ technologies can help Central Asian nations build better health procurement systems /

At our recent Public Procurement Conference in Kyrgyzstan, experts gathered to discuss how ‘leapfrogging’ technologies could allow Central Asian nations to dramatically improve health outcomes

Effective and transparent public procurement systems underpin the delivery of quality healthcare to a country’s citizens. More than 25 years after becoming independent, Central Asian governments public procurement systems are still hindered by inefficiency and a lack of transparency, both of which eat into healthcare budgets. While countries like Kazakhstan are embracing fully electronic procurement systems, many Central Asian countries purchasing systems still do not meet international standards, owing to clunky or outdated procurement procedures which are inefficient and make it hard to measure success. A further challenge is that these countries have historically closed or non-competitive procurement environments. In such systems, vested interests charge high prices and there is little transparency.

With a growing desire among Central Asian governments to digitise their public procurement systems, they are faced with the challenge of finding the speediest and most effective way to do this, but what is the best method? One possible solution which was discussed recently at our Second Public Procurement Conference organised in partnership with the Ministry of Finance of the Kyrgyz Republic, is that of leapfrogging. Rather than tackling challenges one by one and making incremental improvements, leapfrogging is the quick adoption of advanced technologies — think of the way consumers across the globe opted to go straight to mobile phone technology, rather than bothering with a landline.

Attendees of our procurement conference in Kyrgyz

At the conference, which was attended by experts from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, the potential of leapfrogging to improving health procurement and supply chain was discussed in relation to two challenges: that of eliminating counterfeit drugs, and secondly getting emergency medicine to people in remote and hard to reach areas using drone technology.

Eliminating counterfeit drugs through track-and-trace

Leapfrogging allows emerging economies to enjoy the same benefits as high-income countries in a shorter time by ‘leaping’ to the most advanced technology. For example, a current healthcare crisis facing many emerging economies is the circulation of counterfeit medicines. Responsible for approximately one million deaths worldwide every year, governments need to be able to prevent these drugs from penetrating their supply chain. In the fight against counterfeit medicine many developed nations have tried to crack down on their sale in several ways — serialisation of drugs, shutting down websites and warehouse raids with varying levels of success. However none of these interventions have completely eliminated the issue. With the introduction of innovations such as SAP (Systems, Applications and Products) powered track-and-trace technologies, governments can monitor medicines in their supply chain much more closely in a cost-effective way. Monitoring purchases from the manufacturer to the end user, this technology has a higher efficacy in preventing fake drugs from reaching the market in comparison to previous methods.

Preventing unnecessary deaths through drone technology

Another innovative technology transforming how we deliver healthcare in emerging countries is the use of drones. Drones have reduced maternal deaths in Rwanda by 25% by delivering blood and medicine in 1 hour and 30 minutes compared to the typical four hours taken by land transport. The design of cargo-drone technology increases the overall speed and efficiency of the supply chain in poorer countries where storage is inadequate or unreliable. Drones’ potential to get essential medicines to patients during critical periods has seen it used in remote rural communities to deliver antivenom for snakebites and vaccines for rabies in highlands. This innovation could leapfrog the use of traditional forms of transit in procurement and supply chain, saving lives in the process.

Leapfrogging is not a panacea and could present challenges of its own. Forcing stagnant systems to adapt to new technologies overnight could send the infrastructure into meltdown, and with new technologies there is always the risk of hiccups. It is argued that even if not fully mastered innovation should be implemented with the idea that expertise will eventually ‘catch up’ — and these efforts will provide lessons on how and how not to adopt a leapfrogging approach. What’s clear is that through the early adoption of these technologies, emerging economies can charter a quicker path towards better health outcomes for citizens.

To hear more about our work in public procurement, contact our Director of Procurement Steve Guppy.