Working Group on Health
and ICTs for Rural Development

How can we leverage ICTs to advance rural healthcare?

Chaired by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General & Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development’s 2013 Working Group on Digital Health was established to identify and target possible partnerships which could result in: scale-up initiatives in Millennium Villages for health, infrastructure and education; increase training for Community Health Workers (CHWs) by leveraging information communication technologies (ICTs); and provide a test-bed for qualifying the impact of broadband penetration on social and economic development. 

The Way Forward

Working Group Outcomes

The Earth Institute at Columbia University presented its Report,  ICT Based Tools for Integrated Rural Developmentto outline the Millennium Villages Project and its scope of work in health, infrastructure, and education.  



The Working Group’s Report identified five core interventions: 

  1. Food Production: Agricultural inputs 
  2. Access to Healthcare 
  3. Access to Primary Education (school meals, IT) 
  4. Access to Infrastructure: roads, electricity, telephony and ICTs, safe water and sanitation, irrigation 
  5. Business Development: Built on community-led development and local professional management


President Paul Kagame, Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez and Professor Jeffrey Sachs announced new healthcare initiative targeting rural Africa – Jeffrey Sachs launched the     1 Million Community Health Worker Initiative at the World Economic Forum with strong support from President Paul Kagame and Novartis. The campaign was overseen by a steering committee at the Earth Institute and run through the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network as part of its Solutions Initiative. 

The Working Group Model

Composition and Activities

The group, chaired by Professor Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute, was launched via teleconference on 6 April 2011. Subsequently, the group held another two meetings, one via teleconference in May 2011 and the other in person as a side event to the Paris meeting on 6 June 2011.   

In 2012, Professor Jeffrey Sachs launched new UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network at Columbia University on 22 September, comprising research centers, universities and technical institutions with a mandate to seek solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental, social and economic problems. Several Commissioners were in attendance and the group fully supports Professor Sachs in his new endeavor.  

Focus Area

Outcome Resources


Professor Jeffrey Sachs
Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General & Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University 

Broadband Advocacy Targets