Bill Gates: Innovation Key To Helping Poor; He Takes Questions On NPR Today : The Two-Way Bill Gates touts the role of innovation in helping the world's poor in his second annual foundation letter.
NPR logo

Bill Gates: Innovation Key To Helping Poor; He Takes Questions On NPR Today

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/114490541/122954675" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Bill Gates: Innovation Key To Helping Poor; He Takes Questions On NPR Today

Bill Gates: Innovation Key To Helping Poor; He Takes Questions On NPR Today

Gates last June. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Gates last June.

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Innovation, science and technology can make the difference "between a bleak future and a bright one" for the world's poor, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates says in the second annual letter he's written about the work done by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation he and his wife now run. It went online earlier today.

The software legend, billionaire and philanthropist will be talking about the letter, innovation and his concern that "because of (government) budget deficits, there is significant risk that aid budgets will either be cut or not increase much," on today's edition of NPR's Talk of the Nation. Click here to find out when the show airs in your state and click here to find an NPR station near you that broadcasts the show.

To call the show, dial (in the U.S.) 1-800-989-8255. You can also submit questions here.

In the letter, Gates says that:

If we project what the world will be like 10 years from now without innovation in health, education, energy, or food, the picture is quite bleak. Health costs for the rich will escalate, forcing tough trade-offs and keeping the poor stuck in the bad situation they are in today. In the United States, rising education costs will mean that fewer people will be able to get a great college education and the public K--12 system will still be doing a poor job for the underprivileged. We will have to increase the price of energy to reduce consumption, and the poor will suffer from both this higher cost and the effects of climate change. In food we will have big shortages because we won't have enough land to feed the world's growing population and support its richer diet.

However, I am optimistic that innovations will allow us to avoid these bleak outcomes. In the United States, advances in online learning and new ways to help teachers improve will make a great education more accessible than ever. With vaccines, drugs, and other improvements, health in poor countries will continue to get better, and people will choose to have smaller families. With better seeds, training, and access to markets, farmers in poor countries will be able to grow more food. The world will find clean ways to produce electricity at a lower cost, and more people will lift themselves out of poverty.

He writes about nine innovations that the Gates Foundation is investing in, including invention of an effective malaria vaccine, more productive corn seed and putting computers with Internet connections in all American libraries.

Gates also announces in the letter that:

I have decided to take the notes I make after taking a trip, reading a book, or meeting with someone interesting and pull them together on a web site called www.gatesnotes.com. This will let me share thoughts on foundation-related topics and other areas on a regular basis. I expect to write about tuberculosis, U.S. state budgets, creative capitalism, and philanthropy in Asia, among other things. The trips I will document will include Nigeria, to check on the status of polio eradication; northern India, to understand more about improving vaccine coverage; and school visits in the United States. The site will complement my annual letters as well as the foundation's web site, www.gatesfoundation.org, which has a lot more information about the topics in this letter.

Update at 10:25 a.m. ET: Our colleagues at Talk of the Nation says Gates is due on the air around 2:05 p.m. ET. You can suggest questions via the links we put in this post, and we'll also share the comments added in this thread with the folks at TOTN.

One initiative the Gates' foundation is pursuing -- creating financial tools that make it easier for poor people to save money -- has particularly caught the eye of the staff at TOTN. The foundation hopes to help 50 million households with that program.

And here's another passage from the report that might stimulate some thought and questions. Gates writes that:

Although the acute financial crisis is over, the economy is still weak, and the world will spend a lot of years undoing the damage, which includes lingering unemployment and huge government deficits and debts at record levels. ... Despite the tough economy, I am still very optimistic about the progress we can make in the years ahead. A combination of scientific innovations and great leaders who are working on behalf of the world's poorest people will continue to improve the human condition.

Update at 2:55 p.m. ET. Gates and Talk of the Nation host Neal Conan just wrapped up their conversation. The entire segment will be posted here after 6 p.m. ET. We've pulled a few highlights.

Neal asked the question submitted by Two-Way reader "kurt sipolski," who wrote:

As a writer and polio survivor I try to bring about awareness for those affected and work for eradication. But what about us who need medical advice? Most of the polio doctors are long gone.

"It's fair to say that as there's less victims, understanding what you do for the people who are suffering -- we've got to make sure that expertise is maintained," said Gates:

Bill Gates: Innovation Key To Helping Poor; He Takes Questions On NPR Today

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/114490541/122954686" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Now that Gates has several years of experience as a philanthropist, Neal asked if he thinks he's made any mistakes along the way and learned from them. Gates said, "we're often naive. ... I thought once we invented new vaccines, getting countries to adopt them and add them to the set they give to all the newborns would be straight forward. It turns out it's going to be way, way harder than I expected. ... It's a failure attributable to me that I didn't know that":

Bill Gates: Innovation Key To Helping Poor; He Takes Questions On NPR Today

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/114490541/122954675" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

"Linda in Princeton" e-mailed a question, asking whether Gates thinks he will be remembered more for his work at Microsoft or his foundation. "I don't care about being remembered," Gates began, and then he said that he and his wife do not intend the foundation to be a legacy.

"The foundation should spend all its money and go out of business," said Gates. "I can't craft in my will some words that anticipate the problems of the future and I know how intense the needs are today. So it (the foundation) won't be in perpetuity":

Bill Gates: Innovation Key To Helping Poor; He Takes Questions On NPR Today

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/114490541/122954673" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">