Gates Champions Promise of Technological Innovation during Silicon Valley Visit

Editors’ note:
This article has been updated throughout since original publication on Nov. 15 to provide additional material.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates (R) accepts the James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award from Applied Materials President and CEO Michael Splinter at the Tech Museum of San Jose, Calif., Nov. 15, 2006.

SAN JOSE, Calif., Nov. 16, 2006 – In Brazil, researchers use GPS technology to map high concentrations of the mosquitoes that carry Dengue fever, a virus that causes an estimated 24,000 deaths a year worldwide. In Nigeria, scientists successfully filter pollutants from contaminated water supplies using the seed of an indigenous plant. In Guatemala, an ergonomic bench and footrest relieve pain for traditional weavers, helping them become more productive. And at clinics in developing African and Caribbean nations, healthcare workers use an inventive CD4 cell counter to quickly and cheaply monitor the effective treatment of HIV, a virus that today infects 40 million people.

These and other breakthroughs are the work of international innovators honored Wednesday by the Tech Museum of San Jose – and applauded by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates as setting a new high-water mark for technological innovation. Gates kicked off a daylong visit to Silicon Valley by meeting with Tech Museum of Innovation Awards Laureates while touring a showcase of their projects. Gates said that he is highly impressed by the creative ways the laureates have put technology in the service of humanity.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates stops at a booth to observe the work of Brazilian company Ecovec, one of 25 Tech Museum Innovation Awards Laureates recognized for applying technology to benefit humanity in five categories — health, education, environment, economic development and equality.

The power of technology to effect sweeping change remained in sharp focus throughout the day as Gates participated in the TechNet Innovation Summit held at Stanford University. The annual event brought together a number of U.S. technology business leaders to discuss emerging industry trends and public policies that will shape the nation’s future. In a discussion led by journalist Charlie Rose, Gates spoke about Microsoft, the tech industry, philanthropy and the need to fuel innovation and maintain America’s competitive edge in the global marketplace.

Global Humanitarian Award

Gates ended his day in Silicon Valley at the Tech Museum of Innovation annual awards dinner, where he received the 2006 James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award. Gates’ remarks focused on the impact that technology can have in terms of delivering solutions to some of society’s most intractable problems.

In keeping with the theme of “Technology Benefiting Humanity,” Gates praised the 25 laureates of the Tech Museum, saluting their efforts to take the right approach by looking at human needs as a starting point, then figuring out how technology can reduce inequality and the suffering it causes.

“They’re showing that technology doesn’t have to be complicated or even expensive,” Gates told the audience at the Awards gala. “That’s the beauty of technology, that it can be simple – that is the best technology.”

Challenge to Business, Government Leaders

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is interviewed by journalist Charlie Rose at the TechNet Innovation Summit to discuss innovation and the global knowledge economy before a packed audience of Stanford students, technology industry pace-setters and government officials.

Gates challenged business leaders to step up with regard to philanthropy. Pointing to the core principle of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – that every human life has worth – Gates conceded that philanthropy alone won’t change the world, but it can serve as a catalyst for change.

“We need businesses and governments as an essential set of partners in this equation,” Gates said. “It means we all need to embrace a broader definition of responsibility and a willingness to look at the failure of collective action and see how we can change that.

By refusing to accept a world that harbors malaria or tuberculosis or AIDS, Gates said, people can start the wheels of collective action turning and unleash the potential for large-scale change. He said that technology can be used to advance public health in every way, from discovery to development to delivery.

“Ultimately, it really comes down to all of us setting examples,” Gates concluded. “All of us are very blessed and we enjoy what the world has given us, and it also has given us the opportunity to do the important work of reducing inequities.”

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