The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations announced the introduction of the Global Development Lab Act. It was introduced by Senators Ben Cardin and Johnny Isakson on March 4, 2016. This bipartisan legislation states that the effectiveness of U.S. foreign aid could be significantly enhanced through the use of scientific and technical innovations and by involving the private sector. As a result, there would be more low-cost and common sense solutions to development challenges such as improved health outcomes and reduced global poverty.
Established in April 2014, USAID’s Global Development Lab builds upon the belief that innovation, technology and partnership can accelerate development impact fast, cheap and sustainably.
“The Lab’s role is to rethink assumptions and harness the power of the crowd and America’s leading research institutes and universities, coupled with the democratization of science and technology, to lead to new breakthroughs that it can bring to scale,” Alex Dehgan, USAID’s former chief scientist said interviewing with Center for Global Development. “If the Lab isn’t pushing boundaries, it isn’t creating discomfort, it isn’t attracting new solvers (including from the developing world), it will fail to achieve its promise.”
The Global Development Lab Act (S. 2629) establishes five key duties: (1) increase the application of science, technology, innovation and partnerships to cultivate and gauge new ways to end extreme poverty; (2) discover, test and scale development innovations to increase cost effectiveness and support U.S. foreign policy and development goals; (3) leverage the expertise, resources and investment of businesses, private organizations, science and research organizations, and universities to increase program impact and sustainability; (4) utilize innovation-driven competitions to expand the number and diversity of solutions to challenges of development; and (5) support USAID missions and bureaus in applying science, technology, innovation, and partnership approaches to decision-making, obtainment and program design according to the legislation.
On March 4, 2016, in a press release, Senator Isakson stated: “The Global Development Lab Act would provide the integration of science, technology into our development solutions for eradicating poverty. The USAID Global Development Lab has created cost-effective solutions to solving challenges around the world. Through public and private coordination, we are leveraging the resources of business, nongovernmental organizations, science and research to advance greater global health and economic development.”
The House version of this legislation (H.R. 3924) was introduced by Reps. Joaquin Castro, D-TX, and Michael McCaul, R-TX, on Nov. 4, 2015. The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a consideration and mark-up session for this legislation on Feb. 24, 2016.
– Summer Jackson