ISLAMABAD: Business tycoon and philanthropist Bill Gates has sent a letter to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and suggested that ‘mapping technology’ be used to help eradicate polio from Pakistan.

In his second message to the PTI leader this month, Mr Gates said the satellite-based technology could bring about ‘revolutionary changes’ in the health sector.

On March 3, Mr Gates had telephoned Mr Khan and praised both the PTI and the federal government for jointly launching the Sehat ka Ittehad (United for Health) programme to help eradicate polio virus from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

The programme is being managed by the PTI-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.

In his letter, Mr Gates said he had been encouraged by the personal commitment shown by Mr Khan in efforts to eradicate the virus from Pakistan. The PTI leader’s strong leadership had come at a critical juncture in the global efforts to defeat the debilitating disease.

“I am interested in your opinion on the use of mapping technology, a technology which has helped Nigeria get close to eradicating polio. I know there are sensitivities around this type of technology and I look to your guidance on what is appropriate,” Mr Gates said in his letter.

He said it was encouraging to see that the federal and provincial governments and the army were working together under his (Mr Khan’s) ‘United for Health’ initiative.

The well-know philanthropist said that Mr Khan’s direct engagement and leadership were essential to ensuring a polio-free future for all the children of KP, Fata and Pakistan.

He said the PTI chairman’s work would have global reach and recognition.

An official of the KP’s health department said the satellite-based technology could be used to check the performance of polio teams in the field.

“Whenever members of a team stay at a place for a few minutes, staff in the operation room get information that they have vaccinated the children and a red spot appears on the screen. Teams can be checked in case of overstay at a place,” he said.

“We have been considering linking the mapping system to the health sector of the province. Once this is done, not only will it become possible to track doctors and staff, but also look into complaints filed against them. Even surgical operations will become possible through video links,” he remarked.

“So many times the patients have to be shifted hundreds of kilometres away just because of unavailability of experienced doctors. Because of satellite-based mapping system those kinds of issues will be resolved,” he said.

“Fortunately Shahram Khan Tarakai has charge of both the information technology ministry and the health ministry. So it will be easy to take such a step.”

Talking to Dawn, Mr Tarakai said that PTI General Secretary Jahangir Khan Tareen could be engaged to implement the mapping system because he had the experience of running the president’s primary healthcare initiative across Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2015

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