The Gates Foundation

Question: There was an interesting feature article in the London Guardian newspaper today about the way the $bns in the Gates Foundation are being spent. It occurred to me that it would be highly “appropriate” if they put some *substantial* funds into research into causes, physiology and anatomy, prevention and treatment of RSI. This seems so obvious that I can’t believe that no-on else has thought of it. Has anyone? Has anyone done anything about it?

It’s clear that they really need educating about spending charitable money. There was an extraordinary story of them giving computers to the 3rd world, visiting Soweto and being proudly shown the community’s computer plugged into the community’s *only* electrical outlet! Gates said: at this point I started to realise that computers may not be their first priority. So they need help – a well-planned approach, a briefing pack, a list of relevant ‘experts’ for them to follow-up with (like giving references).

They should set up an Research Institute – it should cover basic research, development of treatments and when some good results start appearing, setting up treatment ‘centres of excellence’ in all countries where PCs are widely used and then wide dissemination of prevention advice. Briefing to them should include the current medical state-of-play, statistics on its effects on people’s jobs, info on the emerging problems with children etc etc such an approach would best come from organisations rather than individuals. In the UK we have the RSI UK Association – what is there in the US? in Australia? Can we get our act together to make a joint approach? Is there anyone who has access to small-scale charitable funding possibilities which might fund the costs of getting this together? The man who wanted to put ‘a PC in every home’ (or was it ‘on every desk’ – or both?) should be *just* the person to fund research into one of the dire consequences of that. Any ideas?

Answer 1: I do agree that the Gates Foundation needs to do more than simply providing computers. I would be somewhat leery of them funding the research. We’ve all since the research done by the tobacco companies. With the proliferation of computers, I think action needs to take place now. I think that along with computers, they should be funding computer safety education, as well as proper (ie adjustable) furniture. One of the goals of the foundation is to supply computers to schools. Unfortunately, these same schools cannot afford to purchase proper workstations for these computers. Computers are thrown on whatever piece of furniture available. Although I agree that research is important, there is a great deal we know now about these injuries and we need to apply it now to prevent further
injuries. I would be interested in working with others to pursue funding for RSI education and appropriate furniture to accompany these donations of computers.

Answer 2: If you read the article you’d know that this is not what they are about – they are primarily targeting global health and education issues. The gates foundation is run by someone who does not work for Microsoft, and works for no salary. She spends most of her time ‘out in the field’ talking to people about the issues that affect their lives.

Answer 3: I think this is an excellent suggestion.  Contact the RSI Association for working with them perhaps to put such a proposal together?

Answer 4: Do you think it’s fair to volunteer other people to take on extra work? I don’t.

Answer 5: I was thinking aloud as to who would be a good person strategically to do it given that possibly it would be someone who already knew a lot of people or things to that effect. It didn’t mean anything more than that. I will watch my words more carefully in future. Sorry to have cause offence.

Answer 6: Doesn’t that just mean “someone who’s already doing RSI voluntary work”?  I don’t think that people who do stuff should end up being looked to do more stuff, especially people with RSI who have to be careful not to take on too much. If they volunteer to do it, that’s different.

Answer 7: No – the foundation is ok – they get given stock and sell it immediately!

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