Remarks by Bill Gates, Chairman, Microsoft Corporation, and Bill Clinton, Former President of the United States
Microsoft Government Leaders Forum Africa 2006
Cape Town, South Africa
July 11, 2006
DR. CHEICK DIARRA (Chairman, Microsoft Africa): Good afternoon, again. Your excellencies, and presidents of state, the diplomatic corps, head of delegations, the hard-working colleagues, members of the press, thank you all for coming back to this final session. It is a session that has been scheduled for what we call the prime time of sessions, when you have just finished having lunch. But since we have two great speakers today, I know that you won’t have time to even fall asleep even for a second.
So, what I would like to ask you, again, repeating, can you please make sure that your cell phones are switched off before we get started, because that was said a while ago. And then, secondly, after that I will call our speaker here on stage, they will address you through their keynotes, and then some of you have filled out questions, we have selected from those questions some five questions that are occurring more than once, and we will ask each of the speakers to answer those questions. And after we finish the question session, while they go in the back to take off their microphones and so forth, I will be very delighted, even though I’m not as popular as the speakers, if you will remain seated so that I can do at least my closing remarks before we finish.
I know that you have been waiting for this session with a lot of anticipation, so I don’t want to go into a speech at all, because the people that here this afternoon giving you the keynote speech don’t really need any introduction. So, I’m just going to call on the stage, Former President of the United States of America, William Jefferson Clinton, and the Chairman of Microsoft, Bill Gates; those are the two keynotes speakers that I’m calling on stage right now. Welcome them, please. Thank you. (Applause.)
Good afternoon. Thank you.
Since the time that we have is really short, I think that we should just go straight to the keynote. I would propose that we start with Bill Clinton, please. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Thank you very much, and good afternoon. You can all see that I am the most technologically challenged person on the stage, because they have mobile microphones, and here I am standing behind my little lectern.
I am delighted to be here, and I would like to thank Bill Gates and Microsoft for sponsoring this Government Leaders program, and I want to thank all of you for coming from all around this great continent to be here today, and for your interest in the question of how the private and public sectors together can increase competitiveness and social progress through technology.
This is a question that consumed a lot of my time when I was president. I worked very hard on increasing Internet access, for example, and bridging the divide between rich and poor and middle class within the United States. We had about 35 percent of our schools on some sort of Internet connection when I became president. We were at almost 100 when I left. We went from 30 percent to 63 percent of our classrooms being connected. And we did a lot of work on help centers, and other public centers, community centers all over America, and used access to the Internet to drastically increase the speed with which people could do business with our government. We also tried to establish a framework which would drastically accelerate the spread of Internet technology, commerce, and communication throughout the world.
Since I have left office, I have given a lot of thought to the question which brings us all here today. I do not, obviously, know as much about the details as Mr. Gates does, or probably many of you in this audience, but I am quite sure that we can make better use of technology, and other technology to more rapidly empower individuals, to promote national economic growth, and reduce inequality, to increase government capacity, and public capacity generally in healthcare, education, and other areas, and also to increase citizens’ ability to effectively relate to and hold accountable their governments.
I never will forget being just stunned when the SARS epidemic began to develop. You remember first it was discovered in Hong Kong, and then it showed up in Toronto, Canada, and everyone was worried that it would, just like avian influenza today, everybody was worried that this would lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of people, and in the beginning the Chinese government was very much in denial about what seemed inevitably to be the truth, that SARS had originated on the mainland of China, gone to Hong Kong, and then taken by air to Toronto.
But the story has a happy ending, because the young people of China demonstrated en masse, not in Tiananmen Square where they could be arrested, but by jamming the Web sites of the government and demanding that the truth be told. And to its credit, the Chinese Government turned on a dime, talked about SARS, offered to cooperate with Canada, and with the United States, and others, and an epidemic that could have killed tens of thousands of people, perhaps even more, was shut down in its tracks with a fairly low mortality rate.
So, I think that the potential of information technology to empower individuals, promote growth, reduce inequality, increase government capacity, and make citizen interaction with government work better is enormous.
I would just like to mention two or three things that I have personally seen and one that I have worked with. First, with regard to education, I think it’s important that we all be candid here. There are some countries with a per capita income that is so low that even at the projected levels of aid, that is if the G-8 keeps its commitment and doubles aid to Africa, and does it in a timely fashion, it will still be difficult to ramp up a lot of these education systems to benefit huge numbers of African children and the ultimate beneficiary, the society itself within an acceptable amount of time if it’s all done the old-fashioned way. But, if we could make available sufficient Internet connections, and Mr. Gates knows a lot more about the technological obstacles than I do. But, if we could make available persistent Internet connections, with access to the right sorts of Web sites you could, for example, completely get around the textbook problem. If you had a good printer you wouldn’t have to worry about ordering good, new maps for every school in every rural village in every African country.
I think we need to think more about how access to information technology can drastically accelerate the quality and reach of education. Of course, the thing that I’m most concerned about today is healthcare. I was I want to talk specifically about a project I’m working on now that relates to the AIDS work I do in Africa, but let me first say that a few years ago I was in India in Jaipur, and I went into a little village to meet with the women’s dairy cooperative, and we met in the local municipal building. And just by happenstance I saw that they had a community computer, with some very interesting software in healthcare available to all the village women who were within walking distance of this place.
It had, among other things, recommendations for the care of children in their first nine months of life, available in Hindi, the national language, and all the local languages that were spoken there, and for people who were completely illiterate there were visual, almost cartoon-like clues that would take anyone through the first six months. And there was a printer, and the representative from the government told me that within three years they wanted to make sure that every mother in India, of a newborn child, no matter how poor would have access to healthcare information that would be just as good as the wealthiest person in America, or Europe or Japan could get. And they’ve continued to do this.
We need to think creatively like that, and I would like to just talk about one of the things that we’ve tried to do in connection with many of you in these countries. My foundation has worked on the AIDS issue. We established, as we got into this work of trying to provide anti-retroviral medicine at low cost, and we do it in nearly 60 countries now, but we work soon in 25 countries to help work with governments when they establish their AIDS plans, and to train people and go out and build the infrastructure necessary to do this work. We kept asking ourselves what is it that we don’t know, and can technology do something to help us more rapidly find the answers to the questions we don’t know, as well as to take what we have learned, and make it quickly available in other places throughout the world where we are not physically present.
So we began to work with others on something called CSHOR, the Consortium for Strategic Operations Research. It’s basically designed to collect information from local, national and regional sources to develop a planning tool that will help countries with limited funds deliver much, much higher care in the prevention, care and treatment of people with HIV and AIDS.
Over the last 10 months we have developed a computer simulation model that can be accessed by any country, which takes a number of inputs and uses them to create solutions to the particular problems of a particular country, or a particular community, to help them more effectively scale up HIV care and treatment. It’s interesting to me that a simple computer model has the potential to help governments save more lives with exactly the same amount of resources they’re going to spend anyway.
We want to apply this technology to the global demand for anti-retrovirals in 21 high infection nations, so that we can plot out over the long-run what kinds of medicines are going to be needed in what volumes, to give them to the people who are supplying the medicines, to make sure that we don’t get a disconnect between supply and demand. We want to have similar adaptations in the prevention area with HIV, or in dealing with malaria and TB, or in dealing with nutritional supports and worker training.
All of the things that have to be provided, we want to have a model that we can take a given nation’s input and tell you, through the use of technology, what will be needed in terms of medicine, personnel, training and other things over a period of time. This will enable countries to do this work without some external involvement of someone like our foundation or the Gates Foundation. It will enable us, if we are involved, for the work to be done more quickly, and it will save a huge number of lives with no more money. And that brings me to the larger point I think we should be thinking about.
Technology simply allows us to accomplish more with fewer resources. I mentioned, in addition to this health project, using the Internet and printers to obviate the need for some textbook purchases, and to modernize educational material to children in poor, remote places all across the world. I believe that we can do more of this work, but we need to be creative, and we need the help of people like Mr. Gates and other to help us be creative. If you look at what has happened with cell phones in Africa, and in much of the developing world, I think it is a harbinger of what we should be doing in other areas.
The World Bank recently released a study that said every increase of 10 percent in cell phone penetration in a developing country adds 6/10ths of 1 percent to the GDP of that country, and it also enables people to be empowered, to be communicating without being on a centralized telephone system, with all the power lines and other things associated with the grid. I personally believe that same approach should be taken with regard to electricity. I think that all the people that aren’t connected to central power grids in African countries, our primary emphasis should be to try to get them electricity through solar and wind technology that will be independent of the power grid, will create jobs in the countries affected, will avoid any global warming contributions, and much more quickly support economic development.
So I think we need to think more and more and more about individual and community empowerment, about bridging the economic divide through the use of technology, instead of making it worse. It’s fascinating there’s a real struggle going on in India now, which could be instructive for many African countries. You all know that India has these huge high-tech centers, and has created untold numbers of millionaires, and billionaires, and also now has the largest middle class in the world, over 300 million people. But, there are also almost 400 million people in India still living on less than $1 a day. So the last election in India, the last national election, was the only election I can ever recall where the governing party was defeated because of its economic success, because the people of India said, oh, yes, they produce this economic growth, but I’m not part of it. And the competing party said, vote for us, we support the growth, too, but unlike them, we’ll spread it to everybody.
Now, some version of that theme could be heard, I would imagine, in every African country. If you really take this seriously as a moral responsibility, or a political imperative, it is almost impossible to conceive of achieving this in a reasonable timeframe without a very rapid, and very creative application of information technologies. So, for whatever it’s worth, since my primary focus is in healthcare, that’s what I’m trying to do in a way that I hope will help all of you and others in areas where I work.
I think that we have to scale up these healthcare systems. We have to improve their capacity and their training, and I don’t think it can be done with available dollars within an acceptable time limit without technology. But the same thing can be done in education, the same thing can be done in economic development in ways that perhaps will become more apparent in the question and answer session.
But, again, I want to say, the most helpful thing to me, when I think about all the work we did in the United States on this when I was president is that both Microsoft, as a company policy, is here trying to make inroads in a way that empowers people in every African country. I think that’s a good thing. And I also think it’s a good thing that the Gates Foundation is trying to do this in a way that advances social justice, and a shared participation in our common future. In my own way, that’s what I’m trying to do, too. But, before Mr. Gates comes on, I just want to thank him for grand challenges and Global Health Initiative. I want to thank him and Microsoft for bringing you all here today. And I want to urge all of you to be creative in thinking about how you can best accelerate the use of technology to promote all these things, health, education, individual empowerment, government capacity, and aggregate growth.
It seems to me that if, like me, you’re always in a hurry to get something done that takes longer than you wish it did, the creative use of technology gives us a chance to bring out hopes and dreams in line with our achievements. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
DR. CHEICK DIARRA: Thank you very much. Thank you, President Clinton.
Now, help me welcome the next keynote speaker, Chairman Gates, so that we can save all the time we can for the question and answer session. Thank you. (Applause.)
BILL GATES: I’ve certainly looked forward to this opportunity to talk with you all about how technology can do special things here in Africa. I want to thank President Clinton for being here. He and I have a lot in common, and we’re both optimists, and we’re both very excited about the potential that you and your countries represent. And we’re both, in our own ways, working on some of the challenging issues, including healthcare, that will unlock more of that potential.
Let me talk first a little bit about how technology is changing, and then map that into some of the opportunities for the countries here. I love technology. It’s the part of the world that’s changing most rapidly. One way that you can see that is to think about the power of the computer. The computer when I was young was very limited, and only governments and large companies could afford them. People were actually afraid of what the computer might do to them. In fact, people talked about when you got a punch card in the mail that you might bend it or staple it, and somehow mess up this computer that was not working on your behalf.
And, so it was a rather radical change when a boyhood friend of mine, Paul Allen, and I sat down and looked at the fact that computers would become cheap enough that they would become a tool of the individual, a tool of empowerment, a tool for creativity and communications. And that’s the dream that we had in starting Microsoft. We saw that there would be a particular element missing, which was the software, and it’s really been a dream come true over these last more than 30 years to see the company that’s developed around that idea. We’ve worked with many partners all over the world to pull those pieces together.
And so the very first machine that Microsoft wrote software for was based on this computer on a chip. The idea of many transistors allowing us to make better and better computers, and every two years the power of that machine doubled. We don’t see that kind of improvement anywhere else. If we did, you’d get 10,000 miles to the gallon, your food would only cost a few cents. Computer technology is unique. One way to look at that is to say that the personal computer that can be bought for a few hundred dollars today is more than a million times as powerful as the first one that Microsoft wrote its software for. And so, obviously, it can do things that weren’t possible in the past.
If you had said to somebody back then, we’ll use a computer just to compose electronic mail, they would have laughed, because it was too expensive, and all the people wouldn’t have the computers to receive that information. When you would say that this is the way that you’ll have a computer in your pocket in the form of a cell phone, it will show you the map, it will show you what’s nearby, we’re actually working on software where you’ll be able to take your cell phone and use the camera to take a picture of a sign, and send it back over the Internet, and we’ll take whatever is on that sign and translate it so that if it’s in a foreign language, you’ll be able to understand exactly what’s there. If you’re in the supermarket, you have that cell phone, you can take a picture of some product you’re thinking of buying, and we’ll go up and find out what a fair price to pay for it is, what the reviews are, what the alternates might be. And so just that cell phone in your pocket will be far more empowering than simply bring a voice device that many people think about it today.
The miracle of the chip continues. Intel, AMD and many others are pursuing that, doing a wonderful job. We’re also getting better graphics, better screens. We talk about high definition where not just movies, but the whole way that information can be presented on the screen is much better. I have a very large screen which when I bought it a few years ago cost a few thousand dollars, now that 24-inch LCD would only cost about $400, and that price will come down, so that will almost be a standard thing that we’ll take for granted. So there’s been dramatic progress in what we can do.
Once upon a time, computers were defined by their size. The personal computer was very limited, but the least expensive, the minicomputer was more expensive, and the mainframe was the most expensive. And depending on what you wanted to do, you would have to buy that more expensive machine. Well, today, the power of the personal computer, because of its volume, and the very competitive market, it actually exceeds that of what the specialized mainframe can do. And so we no longer have this split. We simply have very low cost machines that can take on the most demanding problems that you might have.
The cost of hardware has been eliminated as a factor for government applications. It is so inexpensive, it will never hold you back. Likewise, the cost of software, because we’re able to sell it on millions of machines, we and other people that build software can do that at a far lower cost per unit than ever before. And yet, because of the high volume, Microsoft has the highest research and development budget of any company in the world. That’s partly because of our optimism, our optimism that software will continue to surprise people. Software that recognizes state so you can talk to your cell phone and ask for information, software that recognizes handwriting, so that a student who has the tablet computer doesn’t need to use textbooks, they can record the lecture, they can write notes on top of it. When they go back to see those notes, when they select them, they can hear what was being said at that time. They can access over the Internet a video of what was going on, or additional course material. They’ll be far more empowered than anyone was in the past.
When I tried to learn as a student, I took the encyclopedia and started with the letter A, B, C, D, and it’s actually kind of confusing to read the encyclopedia alphabetically. Today, a student would have a far better approach, they could do it chronologically, or by subject area because it can be organized any way that they’re interested in. And they have a much better tool, if they have access, than even the most privileged student would have had in the past.
These Tablet devices will become inexpensive. The biggest cost today is the cost of connections. Even in the United States, if you want to connect up to the Internet with a high speed what they call broadband connection that costs about $40 a month. And so, in the course of a year, it costs more than your personal computer does. Now, that cost is much higher in places where there’s less people connected.
In urban Africa, the costs are higher, and in rural Africa not only is it much higher, often using satellite connections, in many places it’s simply not available. And so, we need to tackle this issue of having low cost connections. Now, fortunately, a technology that will solve that problem is being developed. Wireless approaches that can work over very long distances, but with very low cost are the solution here, and we’ll be piloting these throughout the developing world, with partners here in Africa, and in Asia, to try these things out, because the frequencies in your countries are there, and have been available to be used for these broad applications. And so even that one piece that is still so difficult, if we look at the five- to 10-year timeframe, we’ll have very inexpensive solutions for that. We’re using the magic of the chip to provide that capability.
The kind of technology to change how the world works people have underestimated that every step of the way. Today when we think about how people work, we can do far better in bringing them the information that counts, helping them understand the budget and how many things spend, understanding the trade situation, understanding customers, or donors, or citizens, and what they’re thinking and how they’d like you to do things in a different way.
This technology makes the world a smaller place, and so particularly for people who are not in the rich world urban centers, this technology can be revolutionary. Not just in reaching educational material, but in terms of finding buyers for products, in terms of finding the latest techniques, this technology makes the world really quite a small place once we have it available.
The way to do this throughout the world involves many creative approaches. My involvement in technology has always been about wanting it to be available to everyone. The very first slogan of Microsoft was a computer on every desk and in every home. All of you realize that in many ways we’re far short of that today. Out of 6 billion people, somewhat less than 1 billion are using this technology. Now, 1 billion is a good start, but there’s 5 billion more to go. Part of how to do that is by having community access, getting it into schools and libraries, and many of the projects we’ve done, both here in Africa and around the world have that theme that, although it won’t be in the home at first, it will be accessible, so that the kids, or the adults who have the energy to do that can come in and have access.
Libraries have been an important part of this in a number of countries. Microsoft did that in Chile and Mexico, and now looking at how we can do that here in Africa. We have many partners in these countries. In fact, as we go into a country our goal is to create jobs by having local companies take on the special work, the e-government work, the support work, and to develop a reputation to participate in the world market.
President Clinton talked about India, who has created millions of jobs in the IT sector, and that runs the full range from engineering work to call center work, to accounting work. It basically is making true a very hopeful prediction I made some time ago that your salary, which historically was mostly determined by what country you were in, in the future will not be determined by that, but rather will be determined by what education you’ve had. So if you’ve had a good education, if you have a skill set you’ll be able to offer that independent of where you are.
To make that fully come true, obviously, the infrastructure has to be in place, but it will come true, and so it highlights something that’s come out in my discussion with every one of you, which is the investment in education. I’m sure you saw that was a big theme of this conference. It’s not something that changes things overnight, but a very key area.
One of the partners that we’re pleased to work with, it’s a new partnership for us in development, a kneepad and something that’s news is that we’re going to do 25 schools in eight countries, e-schools, schools that have the right technology and are kind of models. Just that first pilot alone will be 20,000 students and 1,000 teachers, but it’s designed to scale. Of course, we’ve got 600,000 schools on the continent, so there’s a lot of scaling to be done for all of us to achieve our aspirations in doing this.
Education is the top priority. For many of you that means having at least one great university, where you get the IT skills that will bootstrap your country to take full advantage of these opportunities. Over time it means every school. We’re realistic, we understand that the top priority often isn’t technology. Technology certainly has to stand in line behind teacher training and electricity, and good facilities. But, it should be on the agenda, because it does make a very big difference and connects you up to the world in terms of all the latest that’s going on.
One of the things that we’re also proud about is making our software accessible. We mean many things when we say that. We mean that the personal computer can be used by people who are blind. Blind people historically only got very few books, a few Braille books. Today because of voice synthesis, the ability of the software we built in, they can browse the Internet and get the latest information. So it’s night and day in terms of their ability to contribute, stay informed. It’s clearly a tool of empowerment.
Accessibility also means having the computer work in your language. And I hope you have tracked the progress and commitment we have, in terms of doing local language support for all of your countries. We build out more and more new versions. In fact, we’ve got an additional eight languages that we’ll provide in the next year.
Now, all of that work, it’s very interesting, we simply enable it with what we do, and then we contract often with the local university or a private company in your country to actually do that work, and make sure it’s done well. So we’re not flying somebody to the United States, or using somebody there, we’re actually able to do this work where the expertise is. So having this local language support is part of that commitment to broad accessibility.
We’ve got that low cost version of Windows that can be used, and we’ve got a way that we can lease computers, so that you don’t have to pay for it up front. Here in South Africa, MTN is a partner that we’re doing these programs with, and the success we have with those will enable us to roll those out with other partners across the entire continent. So we’re trying innovative new things to lower the barriers to getting involved.
Many of the things that we talked about in our sessions were about driving your economies, and I was interested how many people brought up issues around tourism. Certainly there is a big opportunity there. We’ve reached out and formed a new partnership with the United Nations World Tourism Association, coming up with a standard way that you can build a portal for your country and connect that into a broad African portal called Windows on Africa, and make this very easy to use. So a lot of information about what’s available and exposing people to what they don’t see. The Internet, allowing people to know what’s available in great experiences, the places to stay, and those are investments that we think can pay back in a very strong way.
When we met many of you talked about the challenges you face. I think we ought to go forward with the recognition that getting these infrastructures in place, developing the capacity of the great people in your countries, it is going to take time. So that’s one reason why it’s important to pick partners who have a long-term approach. Certainly when I think about why Microsoft was more successful than many of the other companies in the IT industry, it’s because of this long-term approach. Even today on tough things like making computers more intelligent, because it’s so hard to do, and will take a long time, most companies are not investing in that. Yet, when that becomes true the value will be pretty incredible.
So like governments, many private companies need to think out 10 years or even 20 years. And I think as we form partnerships, having that kind of perspective that, even though there’s no in many cases a pay off for the private partner in the first years, even five years, that if you really believe in the potential that’s here, those things are worthwhile and that the upfront investment will absolutely be made.
There are so many wonderful examples of things going on in your countries, we tried in the panels to get that to come out. We weren’t able to go through all of them. We really do try and, through our Web site, publish those, and even have videos of the enthusiastic participants, the students, the governments. Things like transparency in government is a magical thing.
I was meeting with the Danish prime minister, and they’ve taken transparency to an extreme. I had lunch with him at a restaurant, and he paid for his own lunch, and then he, through his cell phone, immediately keyed in how much he had spent. And it was up on the Web site immediately, because every expense down to that level they make sure that it’s up there and the citizens can go in there and say, no, you should have had a cheaper lunch or something like that. It’s just a great example of once you have that kind of openness people expect a lot.
Even inside Microsoft when we’re debating about a decision we want to make, having these tools where people throughout the organization come in and disagree with something I might say, talk about that, we can see how many people think we should take a different approach, it’s been very exciting.
Many of you know that I also have the commitment through the work with the foundation to make sure that health issues, and other economic issues, aren’t holding things back. That, along with my Microsoft commitment, will bring me back to Africa again and again to see where we can partner, and see where we can help. But, I hope you get a strong sense of the incredible optimism that I have for the work you’re doing in your country, and the commitment that I have personally, and that Microsoft has and it’s been a very exciting event, a real milestone in the development we all know can take place.
DR. CHEICK DIARRA: Chairman Gates, President Clinton, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts today with our distinguished guests. Now, if you would allow me, I would like to go to the session regarding questions and answers. Since I have taken, and gone through the trouble of collecting people’s questions and going through the most frequently asked questions, at least I would get a payback after that by asking the first question on the list. Then I will put that aside, and we will get to your questions right from the floor. I understand there is a young man here, a very young one, who wants to know what the clothes will look like in 35 years.
So the first question for you, sir, is there are so many critical issues facing Africa today, issues like poverty, lack of infrastructure, disease, given these challenges, can you offer your thoughts on the relevance of technology, where should it fit in terms of government’s priorities? This is a question for both of you, who wants to take it first?
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I can give a very brief answer, then Mr. Gates can give you a better informed answer. The effort to eliminate extreme poverty, the effort to beat back the tide of AIDS or malaria, the effort to promote a whole different model of development, the effort to give a more transparent and effective government, these are objectives. Technology is a means to all those objectives.
If you are running a developing country in Africa, East Asia, Latin America, anywhere today, and you want to jumpstart your people’s potential, if you believe that intelligence, and ability, and hard work are evenly distributed throughout the world, but investment, opportunity, and systematic, effective organization are not, then you should try to implement maximum use of technology in each of these endeavors. It’s a means to all these ends. That’s the way I look at it.
So I think from that point of view it’s a terrible mistake to get into an either or thing, because it’s only either or if you’re going to spend more on the technology than the benefits that will flow from that investment, and that will almost never be the case. If you know what you’re doing, you’ll almost always get more out of accelerating your use of technology than in walking away from it. So I would urge everybody not even to think about that question in those terms. It’s a means to all those ends.
BILL GATES: Yes, I agree completely with that, and it’s a wonderful fact that the cost of technology has come down very dramatically, and, for example, the cost to equip your top university with good Internet connections, and let all the students there participate, that’s a very modest cost, that’s well worth doing. The cost of the government, itself, and its offices, and how it organizes things, you know, how many extra donor success, or taxation successes does it take to pay that back, and the answer is, very, very few. And, efficiency in government makes a huge difference in people’s willingness to trust and work with those systems.
Now, there are some things that are very expensive. When you talk about putting computers into every school, and Internet connections into every school, I claim that has a very positive effect, but if you do that without training the teachers, then it’s not worth it. I was humbled once, it was actually 12 years ago, my first visit to South Africa, where I had never been to a township, and my agenda was going out and giving a computer to Soweto, to a community center in Soweto. And we drove in there, and it was like, wow, when I saw the way people were living, I saw there was very little electricity. We got to the community center, and I saw they’d done some crazy extension cord to be able to at least have the electricity turned on for at least the few hours I was there. I realized, OK, in that case, there are other priorities that needed to be taken care of. Not completely in advance of, but certainly in parallel with anything that could be done around technology.
I do think that when it comes to developing personnel, I think one thing President Clinton said is very, very important, everybody starts with the same equal potential. I remember how many times people said to me, OK, the Japanese can’t do software. Then they became the leaders in videogame software. People said that the Chinese couldn’t do software. Well, now they’re doing amazing stuff. There is no real difference except in the opportunity that’s given. And so that what is a shortcut that takes this great disparity and says, you can have equal opportunity. In many cases, that is technology.
I know in the healthcare work that we both believe in, it is technology taking the very broad definition of that that means that we are optimistic about having better AIDS medicines at lower cost, some day a vaccine, taking malaria which is such a huge burden in more ways than I think people recognize in what it does to mothers, and low birth weight, and productivity, it’s terrible. Finally, getting some money applied to that, and getting a solution there. So, technology is the agent that’s changing the world, medicine and computers, and what we want to have is a dialogue where you can say, yes, we would do that, but we think it’s too expensive. Please ask, when we have that dialogue, because you may find out that doing these technological things can be very inexpensive. The progress that has been made is quite phenomenal, and if it’s too expensive today, then challenge up both Microsoft and the industries to make that difference. Because, after all, if we’re going to get to 6 billion people, it’s going to have to be awfully easy to use, and awfully inexpensive.
DR. CHEICK DIARRA: Thank you very much.
Now, is the young man in the room here who had the question? If not, or if he is there, before he can manifest himself, what I would like to do is, come closer, you can ask your own question. I would like to propose a process. When somebody puts their hand up and gets selected for a question, make the question as short as possible, so we can get the maximum out of the time that is left. We have 22 minutes left.
Go ahead. Come closer, because I don’t want to be
QUESTION: (Off mike).
BILL GATES: Well, 23 years is a very long time. Twenty-three years ago, Microsoft was very young, and of course the Internet hadn’t didn’t exist, wasn’t talked about. Even the idea of the personal computers was still considered a very strange thing at that time. Twenty-three years from now, I am optimistic enough to think that computers will be so powerful they’ll almost disappear. That is that as you walk into your house, you’ll simply be able to speak out loud and say what TV shows might I be interested in, and it will hear your voice, recognize that, see who you are, and bring the right thing up on the screen. Most of the things you read, magazines, newspapers, you won’t need those.
There’s an idea that’s not very popular right now, it was popular, but I think it will come back, and that is the idea of robotics will be very well-developed by then, robots to help the elderly and healthcare, robots to help in security, robots to help in manufacturing. There’s a lot of creative ideas now that software is making, things like vision, and planning possible. One of the Microsoft researchers has a goal that there be no car wrecks, no crashes of cars, because by having software that can take over whenever a driver makes a mistake. His view is that we’ll be able to eliminate even that source of death. I was very glad to hear that because, as we solve all these medical things, in fact, these car accidents actually is a fairly significant factor that it’s wonderful that software in 23 years, software can do a lot. This is a business where 23 years is an incredible amount of time.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: One of the things that I think will happen, let’s talk about what will happen much sooner than 23 years. In wealthier societies, there will be a merger of all this technology. Your phone will become your computer, will become your instantaneous access to the Internet, will become your television, will become your camera it’s already become your camera. So, the distance between people and technology benefits, whatever they are, will get shorter, and shorter, and shorter, and the unit cost of accessing them will become smaller. That will change a lot of things in developing countries if we get the unit costs small enough, and get the distribution quick enough. Then you can avoid, in Africa, for example, all kinds of marketing costs, energy costs, other costs that have affected other countries that industrialized more quickly.
Bill can think about what’s going to happen 30 years from now, it may be that in 23 years from now, the difference between the person and the computer will virtually disappear. Some people believe nanotechnology units can actually be put into our brains, and we’ll just be at one with our computer. This is kind of scary for me. What if your computer doesn’t like you? But I think between now and then, we ought to be thinking about this, because the more power that you put into the smaller amount, the more you can empower individuals, and the more quickly you can develop poor areas that is if we bypass the developing countries with this, the tragedy will be even greater than it is today.
DR. CHEICK DIARRA: Thank you very much.
Now, let’s go to the questions from the floor. I see a gentleman in the back there waving.
QUESTION: I’m a DJ in my radio station in Kenya, and I have audience all around the world through streaming. And really it is a wonderful power, the technology. And my wish, and wanting you to contribute is, how can we change our government to embrace technology much faster than many of our people who are individually trying to struggle to follow? And equally, how can we use the Internet, radio streaming, and all these to fight HIV and AIDS? I work with a whole group in New York on Global Business Council on HIV and AIDS, and you supported their laws. Thank you very much.
BILL GATES: It is fantastic to see how technology is letting people stay in touch with their culture. When I walk the halls of Microsoft, where we have people from all over the world, you can hear people listening to radio stations from their native country, or looking at a newspaper that just came out that morning in their native country. So, they’re part of the Microsoft community, they’ve come there, and they work there, and yet their ability, whether it’s relatives that are back there, or just the sports, or the politics, they’re able to stay in touch. And so somebody from Kenya, I’m sure, is listening to your radio station.
The idea of how we take this technology and help it educate and change behavior, that’s a very tough problem, but one that’s worth investing in. Governments tend to move more slowly than businesses, since businesses have to compete, they can go out of business, and so often business is leading the way in using the Internet. When President Clinton was president, there was a lot of push to get the U.S. Government to move, and it did a lot of good things. I have to say the smaller the country, it turned out, it was a little easier for the smaller countries, the Nordic countries, because the departments are all there working together, they were able to do things a little faster.
Here in Africa, I would say the attendance at this event makes me optimistic about the embrace of technology. The level of the people who showed up here was fantastic. It’s the very high end of what we would have expected.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I would like to just make two brief comments. First of all, the answer to one of your questions is self-evident from your presence here, which is that you can use technology to educate people and prevent bad things from happening, whether it’s HIV or any number of other things. And the more people that are plugged into it, the more you can reach.
The second question you asked is a little bit harder, which is how can you use it to make how can you get your governments to make better use of technology. If you make proper use of technology, you can turn early 20th-century bureaucracies into 21st-century service organizations in government. And it will make a lot of people happy. But the problem with doing that in developing countries is the government is generally, and historically, the employer of last resort. So, if you really were to become, if every national government here present were to become super modern, you could do more work with fewer people. And then the question would be, what are all those people going to do, and how many of their relatives will vote against you in the next election.
So, for example, when I was president in the ’90s, we did this a lot. And when I left office, the government was much smaller than it was when I took office. It was as small as it was in President Eisenhower’s last year in office in 1960. But there was no political downside to that because we didn’t have to fire anybody, we just phased them out, because we had so much private-sector growth, largely driven by information technology, because basically the work that Microsoft and all these other companies have done has rifled throughout every aspect of the American economy in the 1990s.
So, if you want your government to be more efficient and effective and responsive by using technology more, and letting people access it, you have to simultaneously support an effort to create more economic activity, because otherwise the politicians will never be able to debureaucratize the government because there won’t be other things for people to do. And so that’s just a little cold shower dose there. I’m all for this, but it isn’t fair to expect the politicians to be able to do it unless they have an alternative stream of private sector job growth, and business growth.
DR. CHEICK DIARRA: Thank you very much. You gentlemen
QUESTION: I’m interested to hear what your views are as to what the PC will become in 23 years? My question is more challenging, I think, what will Africa be like in 23 years is my big question.
BILL GATES: I think that’s a great question. Everyone here cares a lot about that. I will say I’ll make an optimistic statement. I will say that 23 years from now we’ll have vaccines for the diseases that have created such a problem, and were not addressed up until now. I’d certainly say we’ll have a vaccine for malaria, tuberculosis, given that timeframe even AIDS, which is the toughest, I think it’s very likely. That’s the hardest one, you can’t say for sure, but it’s very, very likely.
So there’s about 20 diseases that if they were eliminated, and it includes childhood diseases around respiratory infection and diarrhea, and micronutrient issues, if you got rid of those, and all of those even most of them within the next 10 to 12 years, but a few like AIDS thereafter, that lifts and incredible burden off of this continent. It’s a burden that nobody has really ever been able to calculate, because when you have ill health that creates population growth, it creates a lot of kids whose full potential has been stunted in various ways when you don’t have nutrition. So on the health side I think we can expect unbelievable progress.
That alone won’t let us say that the cycle of the economy creating the jobs, and the opportunities will be there, but that’s what we have to make happen. We have to go from healthcare to better agricultural productivity, better infrastructure, better government, and I think given that kind of timeframe we should expect a pretty incredible continent, where children growing up here have the same opportunity as they would growing up in the United States.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I hope that’s right, and I think it can be. Let me tell you what I worry about apart from that. I do believe we will see dramatic improvements in health on the fronts that Mr. Gates mentioned. I think to maximize those we will have to see continued improvement in governance within African countries. When I speak in America or Europe or Japan, I always say, if you want to make the most of this interdependent world we have to have a strategy for greater security, a strategy for opportunity, and a strategy for home improvement. Even in the wealthy countries we have to keep getting better, because otherwise there won’t be support for investing in the developing world. In the developing world you have to keep getting better, otherwise the money won’t be well spent, or effective. So I think we have to keep improving governance.
I also think you have to recognize that Africa, no less than the rest of the world, is threatened by climate change, by resource depletion, not only oil but top soil, biodiversity, and that it would be cruel, indeed, if you did all these things you were supposed to do, and your potential was somehow short-circuited because those of us in the developing world didn’t take the steps that we ought to take to deal with the challenges of climate change, and running out of basic fuel sources, and all these other problems.
I think we will. So I would say to you I think Africa will only look better, and I think, interestingly enough, a lot of these challenges will force us to do more business through technology. In think 20 years from now a lot of people like Bill Gates and me, our successors, will probably travel less and talk on the television more, to set an example for using less traditional energy. I think technology will, in effect, equalize the way we do things across continental lines, and give you a chance to access economic options, and educational options, as well as better healthcare.
I believe that the real, honest answer to your question, what will it be like, except I think Bill is clearly right about healthcare, is it depends upon whether you can continue to improve governance in Africa, and develop the private sector, and on whether we in the wealthy countries do the responsible things on the big global changes, challenges that could stunt you through no fault of your own.
In other words, Africa is the least responsible continent for climate change, right, because you, by definition, have put less greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. So that’s what I would say. There’s the climate change, resource depletion, weapons of mass destruction, all those security issues, maximizing your potential depends upon the rest of the world doing the responsible thing there. Maximizing your potential depends upon your developing good governance here to make the most of aid, and trade, and most important of all, to unlock the potential of your people. But, I agree, the one most predictable thing is, you’ll be in better shape on the healthcare front.
DR. CHEICK DIARRA: Thank you very much. (Applause.)
This is a very interesting question. I was kind of tempted to throw myself in there, but I kind of refrained, because we have just seven minutes left. Later on we can talk about a vision about Africa during the cocktails today, we can share some visions. I would like at this time to recognize Madame the Minister of Education of South Africa. I think you had your hand up. Then I will give the last to the Minister from Kenya.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. I just wanted to make a comment, and I’d love your reaction to it. I’ve found the forum very interesting, and there are two interesting features or aspects. The first is, being a forum in which issues of principle, of concepts that we often lose track, race, diversity, et cetera, have hardly featured. And I wonder, is technology valued by decree, why is it that issues such as that were not really featured.
Secondly, it’s very interesting, looking around the room, how few women there are. It’s very unusual for South Africa, and I wondered what role could technology play in advancing gender equity?
DR. CHEICK DIARRA: Thank you very much. (Applause.) Since we have only five minutes left, why don’t we take the final question.
BILL GATES: No, we’ll do this one, then we’ll…
DR. CHEICK DIARRA: OK.
BILL GATES: In technology there is a cartoon where it’s a dog in front of a personal computer and he’s saying, the thing I love about the Internet is nobody knows you’re a dog. Nobody can tell who you are or what you are. Certainly, in certain sites there are men that pretend to be women, I don’t understand about that. So it does sort of mask anything that you might react to inappropriately.
I have to say the field itself, in terms of the number of people working in technology, and this is a challenge for Microsoft, the number of women in technology is very low, particularly as you get into the engineering jobs themselves. That’s an area where the number of girls that stay in those subjects as they get into college, and want to stay in them as a lifelong career, that number is about 14 percent of the total population, and actually the trend there has not really changed, despite all the effort that’s being put into that.
There are some countries like China where the numbers are better, the Nordic countries have always been very good. So we as an industry have a lot to do, here in South Africa, diversifying our employment. We’ve been working very hard on that, making some progress. So we’re not a model. I’d say governments often are models. And I’m not sure why there aren’t more women here. Certainly, we’d like to see more in the future.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Very briefly, on the question of racial differences and their not being mentioned, there are several countries in the world where the racial disparity issue is quite important. The United States is one where I worked very hard to overcome it. Interestingly enough, Brazil is another, where the face of poverty in Brazil is almost always black, and where the immediate past President of Brazil, Fernando Enrique, was the first person ever to embrace this reality openly and talk about it, and get people to try to deal with it. I think there is not necessarily a race-based solution. I think it’s more rooted in economics, and it’s reaching out to the poor, and empowering the poor, and recognizing they’re just as smart as the rest of us, they just hadn’t had the same chances.
On the question of women, I think this is the general problem in all developing countries here, which has a lot of aspects. I won’t belabor all of them, but for example, you know, it’s going to be very hard for us to support 9 billion people on this planet, and that’s the projected population in 2050. The only way to slow it down, clearly, in a decent humane way is to educate more women and let them go into the workforce and be more like you. In every country there’s evidence by far the most effective way to slow population growth is to empower young girls and women through education and employment opportunities.
You might be interested to know that even in the United States there is a huge gap in this area. Since 9/11 we don’t have as many foreign students coming in to study science, technology, and engineering, and it’s going to be a really troubling thing for us 10-20 years from now. However, if women and African American, and Hispanic American young people went into science, technology, and engineering at the same rates as white males, and males from Asian and Middle Eastern heritage, we would have no shortage.
So this is a general problem that as education minister I hope you can address here, because we need more women going into these fields in every country in the entire world. And it has the corollary political benefits that I mentioned.
DR. CHEICK DIARRA: Thank you.
BILL GATES: That’s very interesting, in the U.S. if you take business schools and medical schools, the shift towards the percentage of women has been very dramatic. In fact, it’s at about 58 percent now and it keeps going up, and people are starting to worry about what’s going wrong with these men, aren’t they more ambitious and going into these fields. But, in science and technology we have not really changed things. So it’s interesting, the contrast is quite surprising.
DR. CHEICK DIARRA: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you, Chairman, for giving me this opportunity. I just want to say thank you very much for you two creating the occasion. I think it’s an honor to us leaders for you to spare the time to be with us this afternoon.
I have two questions, one for President Bill Clinton, but in a way you’ve answered it. Nevertheless, I want to ask, what mechanisms have been put in place to promote e-health, and e-education in your campaign against HIV-AIDS in Africa?
For Mr. Bill Gates, as Microsoft puts more focus into Africa, do you have in place initiatives for programs geared toward this, the girl child in particular, to be more involved, as well as create more interest in technology, especially through designing and developing provisions in education geared towards achieving these.
In Kenya we find over a number of years now that during the final exams, just before university, that the women, the girls do well in mathematics and science. And we’ve been wondering whether there is anything in your programs that you can target this area, to improve the women as members of society?
DR. CHEICK DIARRA: Thank you very much.
BILL GATES: Go ahead.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Let me just briefly repeat what I said earlier. We have worked with UN AIDS and the WHO, to try to develop a technological tool which would enable which all of you could access over the Internet, which will enable you to take certain inputs of the facts you know about, let’s say, AIDS, and we want to go to TB and malaria, and based on the best case studies of every place where we’ve worked, it will tell you how you can most quickly scale up treatment.
We are now taking the same data input model, and doing it on AIDS prevention. And we are working on how to apply it to TB and malaria, and also how to help the providers of the anti-retrovirals calculate how much of which drug they will need, country by country, over a period of the next few years, so that their production lines can stay in harmony, and they won’t overproduce things they don’t need, or under-produce things that are necessary to keep people alive, all of which is done with technology which should substantially lower the price and cut the time of getting the training networks up and in place.
So, that’s the basic way we’ve tried to use technology. And it’s very, very important in places like Rwanda where after the genocide we frankly had to start again in building up the rural healthcare network. You can’t just go drop this AIDS medicine out in the country. There are many of you, even here in South Africa, where an enormous amount has been done to provide the medication, but you can’t just drop it in a rural area unless there’s a healthcare network. So, I’m hoping that this use of technology will make a big difference, and that’s the primary thing I’ve worked on.
BILL GATES: In terms of the hurdles, there are many issues here, some of which are cultural, some of which are very basic. What we’ve seen as we’ve learned more about schools in developing countries, often the reason that girls won’t go to those schools, or they drop out at a certain point is that there’s not basic facilities for them to have privacy as they go out and go to the bathroom. That creates a situation that makes the situation unattractive, and so they end up dropping out. Often, there’s issues about clean water, where it’s the women of the family who have to go these long distances, and spend often significant parts of the day just getting water. And so, as your girl grows up, you eventually want her to stay home and do that, whereas if some other solution was brought in so that the water is just there, or at least nearby, that’s no longer necessary.
And this is all very interesting, because if you look at the factors that can bring population growth down, and stabilize population growth, health has a huge impact on that. That’s actually the thing I’ve learned that made me feel good about learning more about health, because I always felt that before that if you improved health that that raised the population, then wouldn’t that create this paradox of enough food or educational resources. In fact, it works the other way around, because if you have a few healthy children you can count on to live to old age, then you don’t feel as much need to have a super large family.
It’s very interesting that the second thing after health that predicts getting an economy going is female literacy. It brings down population growth, but it also is that lever that then starts to organize the household resources. It’s amazing if you go and learn about so-called microfinance, which I’m learning about because our Foundation, although we haven’t done much there, we’re looking at that as a thing to add to the health work that can make a big difference. And so I was in Bangladesh meeting with the big organizations there, it’s all women. And you think, well, why is this? And it’s the cultural elements that they are able to do the saving, they are able to think creatively about how they can use their time. So, involving women in the right way is a very, very big deal.
I think the factors that make science and math unattractive are separate from that. It’s partly cultural that science and math has been caricatured that only nerdy guys who just go off and don’t talk to other people, certainly I’ve been subject to that caricature, and so it doesn’t feel like it’s an attractive field. Actually my greatest hope about this is that in the United States the thing that the foundation is most involved with is coming up with new ways of doing high schools. The U.S. high schools, although they were great for their time, are now having big problems because there’s a lot of dropouts, and they’re not really giving most of the people in there a good education in the things they need to know for the jobs that exist. Only about a third of the graduates are really engaged and capable of doing what they should do, which is terrible, because the U.S. is a very high cost country, we can’t pretend that people are going t get jobs that are reasonable without a great education.
And one of the models that’s being used in these high schools is where you take, instead of taking lots of courses, you take very few courses, and you do projects. And so we have a lot of these schools that are so-called high tech highs, but they actually will, instead of teaching you a bunch of stuff, they’ll ask you to build a submarine, or build a pool table, build something easy, and then everything you learn about momentum, and angles, and durability is because you’re trying to build something and trying to do something. And when you talk to those kids, both the boys and the girls, they’re so much more interested in learning technology. It’s not like crossing the desert where somebody says, hey, on the other side there’s this big payoff. Maybe I was better at this stuff because I’m good at crossing the desert, and the payoff which was quite significant, was either easier for me to get to, I don’t know, because I always thought it was super interesting. But making it relevant, the education system has not done well at that. So hopefully we can have some reforms, and hopefully that becomes a model for the rest of the world. It certainly is going to take lots of experiments to see how you change education and make it attractive for everybody.
Certainly they should, the jobs are there. That’s partly why India is doing so well is that the U.S. has a shortage of what it needs in IT skills. And that’s partly why countries here think, okay, whether it’s call centers or even engineers, how can they get some little engines involved as well, that requires incredible education. So we’ve come back to that again.
DR. CHEICK DIARRA: Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman, I’m looking here, they have reset the clock on this Q&A twice already, and I think the whole thing, the keynotes and the Q&A session was supposed to last until 3:00. The time that they would give you for the keynotes, you used half of those times, so we had a lot of questions. I think it’s good that we stop at this point here, because the reset is coming exactly to zero. I like stopping on zero every time.
I ask you to be kind enough to sit down and wait for me, I would like to give you my closing remarks. It is not because the two Bills have finished talking that you should leave. I will be right back and give you my closing remarks.
And thank you very much, President Clinton, thank you very much Chairman Gates, not only for this question and answer session, but for making this GLF what it has been, and especially Chairman Gates we know that this is the last African GLF as Chairman, so we are very sensitive to that, and we thank you or all the time you’ve made available to us. Thank you. (Applause.)
Very good. Now, ladies and gentlemen, you know it has been a very significant two days. We have heard from our public figures, our leaders. We have heard from policy developers, and sector experts. We have seen how technology can be made relevant, and affordable, and accessible for Africa. We can see how technology can help us all collaborate so that we can work together to meet our challenges. We’ve seen how partnership between the public and the private sectors can work to our realizing Africa’s potential.
We now know some of the practical ways and steps that we need to take in order to take these discussions that we have had here over the last two days to the next level. We also know that the drive and ownership of digital growth will rest ultimately with the governments. Microsoft can be a catalyst, but the lead then has to be taken by the countries themselves.
So I would close out this GLF, which is my first, by the way, by repeating the call I made in my opening statement. I say that it is up to all of us to decide what legacy we want to leave our children, and I talk about this GLF being an opportunity, the simple fact of attending this GLF, you have contributed to several small fires, and that I have no doubt that with the quality of the people in this room, that we will maintain that fire and make it grow until such a time as it becomes a huge beacon that can be seen from all over.
So I repeat the same thing, let’s now work together to make the hopes that we have raised in this place here, make it a reality. As we leave GLF and go our respective ways, let’s stay connected. Let’s not become e-locked, like we have discovered new words here, let’s all be connected. We have had a lot of cards. Let’s be connected, and let’s work together in partnership among people, among leaders, to make actually this become a reality.
Have a safe trip back home, may God bless all. Vaya con Dios. Thank you very much. (Applause.)