Davos: The lives of people in poor countries is expected to improve faster in the next 15 years as innovation and technology drives optimism for a sustainable future, says leading philanthropist Bill Gates. The world will have the “tools” to reduce the incidence of malaria and AIDS significantly, he said.
According to Bill Gates and Melinda Gates, Co-Chairs, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USA, there is optimism for a sustainable future and that is mainly driven by innovation and technology. “We get economic growth, but the fundamental basics have improved as well. The wonderful thing about the fundamentals improving is that it will continue for the next 15 years,” Bill Gates said.
They were speaking at the 45th World Economic Forum annual meet here. Bill Gates said “in the next 15 years, we will have the tools to reduce (the incidence) of malaria and AIDS by 95 per cent to 100 per cent. Melinda Gates said that vaccines are “a miracle cure”. Today, eight out of 10 children are getting vaccines, she added.
According to her, one out of 10 children used to die before the age of five. Thanks to the development of new vaccines and treatments, the percentage of children who die before the age of five has been cut in half, she said. Moreover, countries such as Vietnam, Ghana, Ethiopia and Rwanda are reporting 90 per cent vaccination coverage.
The important breakthroughs would be driven by innovation and technology, ranging from new vaccines with universal coverage, better agricultural yields due to better seeds, better nutrition, cheaper smart phones and new ways to deliver these benefits to more people. Cheap smart phones are a game-changer. “In the next 15 years mobile phone coverage will go up, the price will come down, gender equity will improve and online software will be
flourishing,” Bill Gates said.
This will revolutionise everything: agriculture, access to digital payments, low transaction costs, women’s empowerment and education, he said adding “if you want to pick one thing in an economy, education is a master switch of economic improvement.” Poverty has been halved because of innovation, he said.
“Countries are following others that have done it right. Economic miracles start with agriculture, education and then
they can participate in the world economy.” Gates said and cited the example of China, which is now a middle income
country. Bill and Melinda said they believe with innovation in agriculture, within 15 years Africa will be able to feed
itself, with access to latest seeds adapted to African regions.
Hans Rosling, Professor of International Health, Karolinska Institute, Sweden echoed similar sentiments and said “we have made tremendous progress in this world”.