Open source and open medicine take centre stage at UN research symposium

a new global paradigm that supports creativity, innovation and equitable access to knowledge.

In an open letter submitted to members of the World Health Organization Executive Board in January 2006, 280 eminent scientists from 50 countries noted: Although we have very varied scientific backgrounds, from basic research to specific clinical research, we are all deeply concerned with deficiencies in the way that biomedical research science is supported and translated into treatments that improve health outcomes around the world. In the research setting we see many possibilities to develop drugs to treat neglected diseases, but a lack of sustainable support for the R&D process. In the clinical setting we see the problem of affordable drugs to a greater or lesser extent in health care systems in all countries."

A recent UNU-MERIT Policy Brief on the role of Open Source and Open Standards in economic development similarly notes that: ".Countries around the world, regardless of their wealth, are trying to bring citizens into the Information Society and provide electronic access to government services. Many of them are considering open source software as a cost-effective means of doing so. Many more see an inherent injustice in requiring citizens and businesses to buy software from specific vendors in order to communicate with the government, and are looking at open standards - which allow different products from different producers, whether open source or proprietary software, to work together."

Research results from several Open Source studies at UNU-MERIT suggest that some countries and institutions have made strides in adopting policies to promote competition among technology providers, and enhance public access to knowledge. In just four years, Extremadura one of the poorest regions of Spain - successfully invested in creating a free-software society. The model is now being replicated in other poor regions of Spain, as well as in Latin A

Contact: Louise Bergstrom
United Nations University

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