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The Power of Trust and Data in Times of Crisis

By November 16, 2021

Crisis after crisis, we’re seeing how technology can play a critical role in helping us innovate quickly, collaborate effectively, and accelerate impact in ways we could never have previously imagined. But the reality is that while technology is critical, none of this is possible without trust.

From climate action to health equity, these causes demand urgent action – and trust is critical to making that possible. Yesterday at the NetHope Global Summit, Salesforce President and Chief Financial Officer, Amy Weaver spoke with Dr. Bruce Aylward from the World Health Organization (WHO) about the importance of trust and data to power co-innovation. Dr. Aylward is responsible for operationalizing cross-sector partnerships to address infectious diseases and played a key role in standing up COVAX, a global alliance whose goal is to ensure that people in all corners of the world get access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Amy Weaver (AW) Dr. Aylward, you’ve dedicated your entire career to global health, a sector that relies on public trust to protect public health. Can you tell us about what it’s been like to navigate this multi-crisis environment, particularly at a time when misinformation is ripe and data security is at risk?

Bruce Alyward (BA): Amy, this is one of the most challenging crises I’ve experienced in what has been a very long career in this area. What’s been interesting is that it’s taking place against a different backdrop than many other crises – it’s the technology and information era. This is a wonderful thing, but it has also brought with it new challenges.

In this crisis, and with my job at the World Health Organization (WHO) running the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) – a global collaboration to accelerate the development and equitable access to COVID-19 solutions – we have to trust in the partnerships that are creating the tools to combat the pandemic, all the way to the communities in the field that are going to be using these tools.

AW: That’s great, Dr. Aylward. Technology plays a critical role in ensuring access to accurate information, but how do you balance this with personal relationships?

BA: In this era with incredible information flows and sharing, we have to make sure there is accurate information out there. At the same time, despite these wonderful ways to share information, we need to be a little old-fashioned and go back to those personal relationships that people really trust.

In my work, we spend a lot of time working personally with community leaders, political leaders, tribal leaders, local leaders to make sure they have the right information to build the trust necessary to take advantage of these tools coming down the pipeline.

AW: We know that solving complex global challenges requires partnerships that are rooted in trust. You played a critical role in developing COVAX, one of the largest global partnerships to disseminate COVID-19 vaccines to low-income countries. Can you tell us more about what COVAX is and your role with it?

BA: COVAX was launched in April 2020 under the vaccine pillar of the ACT-A, and brings together governments, global health organizations, manufacturers, scientists, private sector, civil society, and philanthropy, with the aim of providing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The idea was that if we get everyone to work together, we can share the risk of the development of these new tools (vaccines) and at the same time, the payout would be that we could roll out the vaccines in an equitable manner. So the idea is that we can share the risk of developing them and share the benefits.

Of course, we’re facing our challenges everyday to help us reach our important goal of equitable distribution. Because, as you can see, if we can’t get these vaccines to everyone everywhere, this pandemic will go much longer than it should.

Screenshot of virtual conversation between Amy Weaver and Dr. Bruce Aylward at NetHope Global Summit
Fireside chat with Amy Weaver and Dr. Bruce Aylward at NetHope Global Summit.

AW: When we first heard about COVAX and what you were aiming to do, we knew we wanted to find a way to support it. We are so grateful that the COVAX team trusted us in a partnership to create a secure, single source of truth to understand how many vaccines are needed and where, and to help participating countries communicate and share information.

BA: Starting in January 2021, our pro bono team met with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and COVAX to create the first iteration of the COVAX Country Engagement Platform. In only five weeks, our team of volunteers and partners worked together to create this.

As of October 4, COVAX has shipped more than 323.2 million doses to 144 participating countries. With 193 participating governments, COVAX is the first major multilateral initiative since the Paris Accord.

Learn more about how the humanitarian, conservation, and development community are using technology to power their purpose. If you’re interested in more, catch up on discussions from the NetHope keynote.

About the Authors

Amy Weaver, President and Chief Financial Officer, Salesforce
Amy Weaver
President and Chief Financial Officer, Salesforce
Amy is an experienced leader with significant technology industry expertise and deep knowledge of Salesforce’s business and culture. She previously served as President and Chief Legal Officer, playing an integral role in building the global legal and corporate affairs organizations and driving important strategic and operational initiatives.
Prior to joining Salesforce in 2013, Amy was Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Univar Solutions Inc. Previously, she was Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Expedia Inc. She currently serves on the board of directors of BSA (The Software Alliance) and Habitat for Humanity International and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a B.A. from Wellesley College.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, Senior Advisor to the Director-General, WHO
Dr. Bruce Aylward
Senior Advisor to the Director-General, WHO
Originally from St. John’s, Newfoundland, Dr. Aylward did his medical training at Memorial University of Newfoundland, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He joined the World Health Organization in 1992 and has worked in a variety of leadership positions in the areas of emergencies, disease eradication, and vaccines.
Starting in June 2020, Dr Aylward has led the multi-agency Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) Hub, a ground-breaking international collaboration to fast-track the development and equitable global distribution of new COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. In February 2020, he led the WHO-China Joint Mission on COVID-19. Since 2017, Dr. Aylward has led the design and implementation of WHO’s ongoing, organization-wide Transformation Agenda.