Bill Gates: innovation improves philanthropy

Updated: 2013-04-10 00:10


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BOAO, Hainan - If one thing is clear after Bill Gates' recent engagements in China, it is the Microsoft founder and philanthropist's belief in the importance of innovation in improving society.

Gates, also co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, delivered a speech themed "investment for the poor" at the Boao Forum for Asia held in south China's Hainan Province from Saturday to Monday.

During the address, he stressed that technological breakthroughs, such as in human health and agricultural productivity, could help change the lives of people living in poverty.

"I think innovation is what has brought us to the place we are today," he said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

Human beings' achievements through innovating have been "incredible" in recent centuries, ranging from widening life spans to improving toilet facilities, he said.

One of the main purposes of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is to encourage innovative people to make achievements to address fundamental issues facing the world.

"Part of the foundation's role is to highlight the problems and then draw out more scientists who can come up with the solutions so as to solve the problems of health, agriculture and sanitation with the power of innovation," Gates said.

His foundation has been active in battling HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis and reducing tobacco use. It is also collaborating with a Chinese institute and developer of a low-cost vaccine for Japanese encephalitis to ensure supplies of vaccines and the development of less expensive doses.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday praised Gates' work and said China would deepen its cooperation with the foundation.

Although Gates, one of the richest men in the world, is probably best known for his pioneering IT products, the man himself is equally proud of the fact that he has funnelled much of his fortune back into philanthropy -- especially creating new vaccines.

Having worked at Microsoft from the age of 17 until his early 50s, he told Xinhua that this experience provided him with resources and skills he has put to use in the foundation.

One innovation he believes is already starting to play a valuable role in charitable work is social media.

"People in need, say the children dying from malaria in Africa, are very far away, but if they lived in our neighborhood, we would naturally know them and take action," he said, indicating the Internet is a very useful tool to connect the world and help people empathize with others who can otherwise seem very remote from their lives.

For this reason, Gates explained, his foundation is trying to make such information more widely available online, especially among the young people with whom he feels social media has the most influence.

"We are seeing some impact, but we need to do more," he added.