Remarks by Bill Gates, Chairman, Microsoft Corporation
Government Leaders Forum – Arabia
“Accelerating Arab Competitiveness”
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Jan. 27, 2008
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome president, Middle East and Africa, and vice president, Microsoft International, Ali Faramawy. (Applause.)
ALI FARAMAWY: (Not translated.)
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Microsoft chairman, Bill Gates. Thank you. (Applause.)
BILL GATES: Well, good afternoon. It’s a great pleasure to be here, and share with you some of the exciting things going on both in the world of software, but also some advances in the region in terms of our relationships, and using technology to advance the goals of the region.
Things change very fast in technology, and likewise things change very fast in this region, so those two things go together. I’ve been very impressed during my visit here not only with the projects going on, but the mindset that things can get done, and the optimism, as well as the willingness to invest, to invest in e-government and education and health, and the infrastructure that will really make a difference for the future generation.
Obviously I’m an optimist with a very positive mindset, because that’s how Microsoft got started. It got started with a dream that a personal computer could become an empowering tool for everyone, for young and old, for rich and poor, literally for everyone.
Well, we’ve come a long ways. We have over a billion people in the world using Windows personal computers individually, and something like a billion and a half more who have access through shared capabilities, who at the school or the library or the community center have the ability to get on and use the latest software, and connect up to the Internet.
So, that’s a very significant number, but it’s still not everyone, because that means getting to over 6 billion.
Many of those computers are connected up to broadband, about a quarter of them, so still a very big number that’s growing fast, but not nearly where we want to be, so we need to grow that as well.
Mobile phones have also emerged as an important device for browsing information, and very complementary to the PC, and there about 2.5 billion own them, very similar to the number who have indirect access to a personal computer, so great progress likewise but still far to go.
Why do I think we can make so much progress in the next decade? My belief is that we’ll do even better than we’ve done in the last 30 years, which is a real acceleration. Well, part of it is the pace of innovation in both hardware and software. At the hardware level it’s the chip industry, which has always done a great job improving the basic power they have. Gordon Moore predicted the doubling in transistors every two years back in the 1960s. That has stayed true, and it will stay true as far out as we can predict, looking at the next 10 years.
In fact, it was when I was quite young, about 17 years old, when I first saw this idea of the chip, and my friend and I, Paul Allen, said, wow, that will be incredible, that will change computing. The one missing element will be the software, and so that’s what was such a strong exciting idea that I even dropped out of school and started the company with him, and that, of course, has grown to be a large company, to fulfill the vision that the tool that he and I wanted, a great personal computer with software, would become available throughout the world.
So, the chips will keep getting better, but that’s not the only element. The software has emerged as the key element; making things simple, making them rich is very, very important.
Designing these devices so they’re small and less expensive, that’s very important.
We’ve seen the portable computer, the portable Windows PC become the most popular type of personal computer. So, the desktop is still important, but most of the new machines are now portable, where people can connect them up to a wired broadband connection, to a wireless Wi-Fi connection, or even to the same pervasive network that’s used to connect phones together, connecting up to those new data networks.
The phones are improving quite a bit, and they are becoming software-centric. Historically when you thought of your phone, you thought of voice. Well, today, you think of getting a map or taking photos, and organizing those photos, or getting instant messages. In the future the phone will be even more software-centric. You’ll talk to your phone and ask for directions or ask for what’s nearby. Your phone will be like a digital wallet so the need to use cash or credit card will be reduced because that phone will identify you and record your transactions in a very rich way.
The last 10 years were the time when the Internet went from almost nothing, really just being used in universities, to a worldwide phenomenon that even small businesses are connected up, large businesses are trying to do more and more of their transactions that way, and, of course, governments using the Internet to reach out and be more efficient and more transparent to their citizens.
The second decade is where the Internet will become more powerful. You’ve probably all noticed that video on the Internet, which was not widely used 10 years ago, is now in the last few years becoming very standard. Young people, when they want to get the news, they all turn to the Internet and not just read the text but also see the videos.
And so even what we thought of as traditional TV that was a broadcast, very channel-oriented structure, that things were only shown at one time, and everybody saw the first thing, as we deliver video across the Internet, we can redefine TV. We can make it so that if you want to watch a soccer game in a certain number of minutes, then the software will figure out exactly what the highlights are, and present it to you in exactly that time. If you’re watching the Olympics and you care only about certain sports, it will present exactly those things in a rich way. Even the advertising can be targeted so it’s more interesting and more valuable to the advertiser as well. So, TV will move to be delivered over the Internet, and be a far better experience.
Likewise the reading we do of magazines and newspapers will have a screen that’s light in shape, and that we can write notes on it and share our comments with other people. This digital reading is at the very, very beginning. We’re seeing a few devices, but the personal computer will be light enough and cheap enough that it will be used that way.
We’re starting to see that in some schools. The idea of a portable computer for every student, so instead of using a textbook, they get that interactive information, that is a dream that’s being realized in a number of schools, and something that Microsoft wants to drive a lot of partnerships in the region so that we can make that far more common.
When I was young, the encyclopedia was only on paper, and if you wanted to navigate the information, you went through it alphabetically. So, it was very hard to learn, if you were curious about something, very difficult.
Today, on the Internet, in English, in Arabic, and many languages, there are encyclopedias like Encarta and Wikipedia that aren’t just the text but also are graphs and animations and movie clips, and it’s getting richer and better all the time.
So, already that’s something that the online is way better than the print was, and that will happen for more and more things, particularly as video and this interaction gets to be better.
So, the second decade of the Internet, the second digital decade, will not just be a continuation of the first. One of the biggest changes will be the way we interact with the device. I briefly mentioned speech from the phone, but when we think about these new interactions, it’s not just speech. Speech is very important, and people have been waiting a long time for it, and it took a long time for the software industry to get the accuracy to be good enough so we could use it.
Microsoft alone has invested billions of dollars in that, and finally the hardware and software combination are good enough that we can say this really will be important; not eliminating the keyboard or the mouse, but a complement to it. Likewise the pen, where we write and we can take notes, that’s something that’s very important and very natural for people, and will be standard with a tablet type computer.
Being able to touch the screen, Microsoft out to software developers now a table-like device called Surface that’s really just a personal computer with a camera that can see any touching or objects that’s on that surface, and let the software know, so you can write rich ways of interacting. And that can be used at home, in the office.
Our original slogan for Microsoft was a computer on every desk. Now that we have this Surface, we’ll probably have to change that and say a computer in every desk.
But it’s not just the desk, it’s anywhere you need. So, say the tables that you have 10 years from now if we have this meeting, you’ll be able to touch the surface, bring up an article related to what I’m saying, look into the information, and just it’s so natural to touch and navigate, to organize things, to work together, that that will be pervasive. We’ve seen touch on a number of devices and now we’ll bring that very much into the mainstream.
We’ll also have cameras that can recognize what’s going on. So, if you stand in front of your TV set, you can just gesture, and have things happen.
If you want to meet with people who are in another location, we recently introduced the RoundTable that makes videoconferencing really work. Videoconferencing has been a dream ever since it was demonstrated a long time ago. Even 30 years ago, AT&T at the world’s fair said it was about to be used by everyone, but it was too expensive and the experience wasn’t rich enough. You couldn’t share documents and edit those documents together. It wasn’t easy to set up. The connections were too expensive and too unreliable. Well, now by doing that across the Internet, and connecting it up with the magic of software, with this RoundTable we now have a great videoconferencing experience.
So, particularly with the kind of collaborative projects that many of you are engaged in where you have people in many locations, different companies and governments working to get things done, and needing to coordinate, this type of technology allows collaboration to be done far better. Yes, it’s complementary to the cell phone and e-mail, but this real time connection is very important.
In the future, another thing that will move on to the Internet and not be a separate thing is the voice network; the idea of a PBX and a special desk phone that was always very hard to use, that goes away and instead it’s software running on Windows Servers, connecting through the Internet, and you can have a special device on your desk, but instead of having a lot of buttons, it either uses the screen of your PC or its own little screen, and you can give it voice commands or touch the screen, and so something like adding someone to a call gets to be really easy, or bringing up a document and stepping through it and talking about that while you’re talking to that person becomes a very, very natural thing.
So, telephony, reading, TV, those are just among the activities that the digital revolution has not yet completely changed, but will.
Microsoft’s center of thinking is always the worker, and making that worker more productive. Microsoft Office was in a sense revolutionary. It brought the idea of making documents to be very easy, even rich typeset documents with nice charts. Well, now we’re going to make it easy to navigate information, to see, look at a budget and look at it by item and see what’s happening, look at a project and see what’s behind, what’s ahead, to dive into the information and see it in a rich graphical way.
This empowerment of the worker to make them more effective, to help them make decisions better, this is something that so much more can be done. As products are designed in a digital way, as all the information is tracked in that way, making sense of the information and allowing people to collaborate together, that’s really the next frontier, and that’s why we’ve added SharePoint as a key piece of that Office working experience to complement the e-mail of Exchange and the document creating of Office, now SharePoint is the collaboration workgroup feature, and it’s been great to see how people are using that.
Now, more and more all these devices will connect to the Internet, so that instead of you having to think about moving the information around, it will automatically show up on the device. So, when you take photos, you can have them go immediately to wherever you like to store them. If you pick up a new phone and you say who you are, it will go up and be able to get your information, so you won’t have to individually customize the devices and move files between them, the service in the Internet that Microsoft and others provide will do that for you.
So, let’s talk about taking these advances — and I hope you get a sense of my enthusiasm for these advances — take these and bringing these into economic development. I said that from the beginning Microsoft, even as a small company, we knew our mission was a global mission. So, our strategy was to go into countries very early, but most importantly to find partners in the country, partners who could deliver services, who could develop software applications, who could distribute the necessary hardware pieces, who could build the custom software for the e-government applications.
So, when we think of our success, a lot of what we’re most proud of is how we built up the software industry and built up the success of our partners. We wanted to give ourselves a report card on how well we’re doing on that, so we asked IDC to do a study in this region, and give us a sense of how many partners, how many jobs, and how much of the spending on IT we were helping to drive.
What we saw was very exciting. It is that for every dollar that’s spent with Microsoft, there’s over US$15 that go to our partners, who do all these value-added things.
This is even higher than the average worldwide, which makes us feel very good, and these are largely local companies. Yes, some of the global partners are here, and that’s good, but the really in some ways most exciting stories are how it’s the local entrepreneurs who stepped up to do the software or set up these solutions.
We can look at specific countries. In Jordan, for example, of the 17,000 people in IT, the majority work on Microsoft solutions. In Saudi Arabia it would be 145,000; likewise more than half focused on Microsoft. In United Arab Emirates it’s 46,000; again over half on Microsoft related things.
Now, driving our partners’ success is important to us, and so as we take any of the things we’ve talked about at this conference to the next level, yes, Microsoft needs to do more, our platform is getting better, it’s easier to write these applications, but we need to invest in our partners so that they can step up to this new level of applications that run on the cell phone, applications that use this new natural interface, applications that are more secure, applications that use what we call modeling so there’s less lines of code in those. So, the investment in partners is absolutely a critical thing.
We invest a lot in R&D as a company. We’re the biggest R&D spender in the world, larger than any drug company or car company or any IT company. Even when I was growing up IBM was the big IT company, and the idea that eventually a company I was involved with would spend more than IBM seemed impossible, because actually they’re very good. They always did invest a lot in R&D, and today we’re substantially larger, although our focus is far narrower. I mean, they’re across many things, including hardware and different activities. For us it’s the magic of software and the platforms. But it just shows our optimism about these future activities that we’re at that level.
Likewise record levels in our partners.
There are some local relationships that we think are very important to develop the talents, talents in our partners and in the government, and so I’m pleased to announce two partnerships. One is with the Dubai School of Government, which is a great research and teaching institution, helping look at public policy and train great people on that. They’re connecting into what we call the Solution Sharing Network where we’ll build examples, and take best practices, put those online to be shared and get the training, help them really push the state of the art of government solutions, not just from the region but from wherever we can find the best practices and make sure that that’s taken advantage of.
This is a way of connecting for us with the young Arab leaders, and making sure they have the right optimism and belief in how good these systems can be, and how quickly they can be put together.
The second new partnership is with the Emirates Identity Authority, and here the connection is on security work. We have a Microsoft Security Cooperation Group that looks at issues of how governments can keep information private and ensure that the online systems are actually more secure than the paper-based systems today, and so that there’s not a reluctance in using those, even knowing that there are people out there trying — cyber criminals trying to do identity theft and spam and things that if we don’t block that, reduces the effectiveness of the digital approach, and so it’s through cooperation like this one that we can drive that forward.
Well, let me turn now to education. Obviously, e-government is a very broad thing in terms of tax and healthcare services, and we’re very involved in all of those. Perhaps if you had to pick one, which is hard, you’d pick education as the most fundamental, investing in the people, giving them the opportunities from a young age or up at the university level.
And we’re very proud of our involvement in education, and things like each student having a laptop, we don’t have that today, but we can see that already that’s ready to be rolled out for pilots and will eventually be pervasive.
Here again partners are very important to us, and I signed two agreements today, one with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Foundation, where they’ve committed to make very substantial investments in both measuring the quality of education and improving it, and seeing how technology works with that — Microsoft is very committed to that, and excited to work with them; and also the other foundation, which is a broader set of countries, and very exciting, is the Dubai Cares effort, and that really looks at the idea that there’s still a lot of people who aren’t in education. That’s one of these United Nations Millennium Development Goals that I’m so excited about, and really are the report card for the world in terms of the tough problems. This will get Microsoft cooperating with them to make sure the software is available, but not just the software, also the training and the teacher involvement that make those things work.
Broadly we look at all our education efforts worldwide, and we call it Partners in Learning. We’ve literally signed agreements with over a hundred countries to tailor what we do to what that country needs.
I was up in Berlin just a week ago before I went to the World Economic Forum, and announced that after five years of doing Partners in Learning, it’s been a great success and the commitment to renew it for another five years, that will get our cash investment up over $500 million.
Now, the most important investment we make, of course, is our employees getting in and helping drive the solutions, sharing what works. So, there’s the software piece, there’s the donation piece I talked about, but then just the commitment to make sure the projects are successful.
So far we’ve reached 80 million students in our first five years, and we have a very ambitious goal to get to 250 million additional students during the next five years.
So, these are very big numbers. We can only do that by great partnerships. In this region we have a lot of different ways we do that, and bring the ministers of education to partner with us, and we’ve trained over a thousand teachers, and that’s starting to have a big effect. In Qatar the AlBayan Independent Secondary School for Girls was named one of the 12 schools that we’re doing particular innovative work with, and setting that up as a model school, and the fact that these girls will get all the skills they need to participate in the workforce, and drive their potential, and we think that’s a great thing.
Jordan is another country where we’ve done special things. I won’t have time to touch on all of them, because we literally do have agreements everywhere. But that’s one where it started some time ago, and we’re really pleased with the results there.
The place, the country where we have the biggest numbers — you probably aren’t surprised — is actually India. There we’ve had to be very innovative because they don’t have broadband connections in most of their rural locations. So, one of the things we do, just to show you how creative you have to be sometimes, is we actually go and look at the very best teachers, and then make a DVD of them teaching. And then we take those DVDs and we distribute them out to the rural schools, because getting a DVD player today is the most practical way to get that incredible lecture so that the teacher can do a better job, and that’s been very successful.
Now, over time we’ll turn that into a broadband connection first to a shared computer, and eventually to a broadband connection to individual computers, but in many countries that’s out of reach in a broad sense, and so we come up with ways to drive this forward.
We’re really connecting teachers together to share the course materials, digital course materials that they make. Historically teachers haven’t been able to share with each other. So, the very best teacher might be isolated, and nobody is seeing the way that that teacher motivates their class and does the material. And so these online teacher portals that we’ve created with over a half a million teachers connecting up to those really make a big difference.
In each country we’ve got a network and then across country as well. The one in Jordan is an example of one where some great things have come onto that. In fact, Microsoft looks at the contributions up there, and we’ve got an award program, and in 2006 the award winner was a really fantastic one, and we’re very lucky today to have that award winner, and the teacher is Maha Al-Shakhshir. So, she’s one of our top innovative teachers. Her work has also been recognized by Queen Rania with her excellence award. So, everybody is seeing and encouraging this type of innovative work.
So, now I’d like to ask Maha and two of her students, Wala Al-Zaben and Haneen Al-Zaben on stage to discuss her experience with our Innovative Teachers Network. So, let me welcome them to the stage. (Applause.)
Thank you. Tell us about your project.
MAHA AL-SHAKHSHIR: Thank you, Mr. Gates.
In fact, Jellol Secondary School is a public school in the Middle Bedouin District, which is considered as one of the less privileged areas in Jordan. The school has around 85 students, girls and boys, and my class has around 10 to 11 students.
When I first started my career as a teacher, I never dreamed of having computers in my school. I thought this was farfetched. Now we have computers but unfortunately they are not connected to the Internet, which is a disadvantage. But never mind, I still managed to find an alternative to this for the benefit of my students.
At the beginning I had major fears and doubts about ICT in the classroom. I thought that it might replace me as a teacher. Now, I see how wrong I was. I have total conviction that technology is all about the people using it.
Through the Ministry of Education and Microsoft we were offered training on basic ICT skills, and creating electronic content, teaching us how to move a lesson from the book to a lesson using technology.
This is how I started working on the Kingdom of Ants project, which aims to raise the level of awareness of students as global citizens through the problems mankind suffers from, and encourage them to act positively to minimize the conflicts, and suggest ways to live more peacefully, learning that from the Kingdom of Ants. Without field visits, project work and computers, I would have never been able to deliver this valuable message to my students.
Microsoft and our government provided teachers in Jordan access to a dedicated network called the Innovative Teachers Network, to allow us to share experiences and projects with other teachers. Using the ITN’s virtual classroom tour technique helped me gather all the pillars of the education process in one place, and this is the ideal way of teaching and sharing our best practices locally and internationally.
The Kingdom of Ants opened a new world of possibilities to these students. It taught us both that we can get information on anything and everything, whenever, wherever, as long as we have technology access.
The projects required a lot of class effort, and even with minimal technology resources it still led to amazing success and impact.
So, Mr. Gates, Wala, Haneen and I would like to walk you and the audience through the Kingdom of Ants sends messages to the human beings.
The lesson is part of our national curriculum, and was traditionally a textbook class, and maybe a field trip. But it became a creative digital project that the students and I had fun with while learning.
From home I downloaded information on my computer, and created a virtual textbook. The floppy disk was a great tool for students and their parents to research ants. It gave them an opportunity to see, watch, really use all their senses to absorb the lesson.
Following that, we took several tours around the village and watched the ants in their natural nests, and took a series of photos using my friend’s digital camera.
Students were inspired to perform a play imagining the queen of ants inviting her peoples from all over the world for a big conference.
At this point I want to introduce you to my student, Wala, the queen of ants in the play, as you can see in the pictures.
Since you have performed the role of the queen of ants, tell us how could the queen of ants convey her message to the world of humans via technology.
WALA AL-ZABEN: At first we were having a biology class. The teacher showed us a video on the kingdom of ants. We were very much impressed with the way ants cooperate within their kingdom. We were very much excited and interested. So, we took part in a number of field trips within the village. We watched ants closely, and took many pictures using a digital camera, and we used PowerPoint to draw a comparison between the world of the humans and ants.
Since I was the queen of ants, I held a conference for my people, and we thought that ants had become very developed. Simply we thought that this could be done with human beings.
Without the Internet, the world wouldn’t have been able to communicate and meet, and you wouldn’t have been able to watch this project where we had in our small village, you wouldn’t have been able to communicate it to the whole world. (Applause.)
MAHA AL-SHAKHSHIR: So, Mr. Gates, can you imagine what we would have done if we had the Internet in our classroom?
Now is the turn for Haneen to talk about her experience in the Kingdom of Ants.
Haneen, we have used technology in our project. In your opinion, if we did not use technology, do you think you would have had the same impression?
HANEEN AL-ZABEN: No. Honestly, Ms. Maha, it would have been really very boring without the technology and technological tools. So, without these technological tools, and without the ICT, we would not have been able to convey our message to the whole world. I thought that we could use special audio and visual effects via the PowerPoint, the video and other images. We have also done field trips.
I think this was a beautiful project, and I think that if we had used a textbook or the board, these would have passed and I would have forgotten everything about my experience. However, since I really enjoyed my project, I still retain it.
I think that we have been able to convey the message very easily. Such as myself, I will never forget such a project, because I think it was a turning point in my life. So, thank you for that opportunity. (Applause.)
MAHA AL-SHAKHSHIR: As one of the winners of Queen Rania’s award for excellence in education, I was selected by Microsoft and the Ministry of Education to attend the Innovative Teachers Forums in Paris and Helsinki. Attending these forums gave me an excellent opportunity to meet other distinguished teachers from different countries, and make friends. I discovered that all teachers around the world face the same challenges, and our role is to prepare our students to be real global citizens in the changeable world, and to use it via a revolution in technology to play in the benefit of humans.
This project has changed my life, because of the work, effort, and thoughts that were put in it, in addition to technology. It’s allowed me to travel the world. I have even been in Seattle last summer near your office, Mr. Gates, and I had the chance to present my project in the University of Washington.
Thank you. (Applause.)
BILL GATES: Thank you.
Well, it’s inspiring to see what can be done with a dedicated teacher, given the right tools, and now what they’ve created is up there on that teacher’s portal, and other teachers can use that as a starting point, so it will inspire their creativity, and make it even easier for them to come up with the next project like that.
I think hearing from the students that this type of thing makes learning more fun, more engaging is very, very important, because students are basically very smart, but we have to make the material draw them in, and so we realize the full potential of their talents.
Doing this as we get out to rural areas in poorer countries it’s a tough challenge, and all of the technical tools won’t always be there. But I think if we’re smart and creative, like in this case where we have the right partnerships, it’s amazing what can be done.
Imagine how much more they’ll be able to do as they move to have the Internet with broadband or even more pervasive access to personal computers, and use them in this way, and even integrated deeply into the curriculum.
So, I think it shows us both in the near term and the long term the information technology can be a key part of not just economic growth but equity in economic growth, tapping into all your broad citizen skills and giving them opportunities.
That’s the kind of thing that both Microsoft and the work of my foundation are very dedicated to, and so I’m always touched when I see an example that we are making progress on this.
So, in the whole realm of the great things that IT can do that I hope I’ve gotten you excited about, I hope that includes how IT and the magic of software can drive forward the equity throughout the world.
Thank you. (Applause.)
ALI FARAMAWY: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.
We’ve now come to I think the most fun part of our meeting, the question and answers. We have some microphones in the audience as well. So, if you just move your hand, then a microphone will come near you straightaway.
I also have some of the questions that were submitted to us through the tool. So, maybe I’ll begin with one of those until you get warmed up a bit.
Bill, there’s a question. I think it’s from Ms. Rola Dashti, the chairman of Kuwait Economic Society. It says while at the World Economic Forum in Davos you delivered a speech about creative capitalism, challenging governments, businesses, and nonprofits to work together to ease some of the world inequities. Can you tell us a bit more about what really creative capitalism is?
BILL GATES: Well, in some ways it’s an idea that I think is very important, that we need to develop over time. It’s a recognition that capitalism has worked very well for the wealthier people. Anything they need in the way of medicine or entertainment, education, the market does a great job of creating. So, we see that over the last 100 years the average lifespan and the literacy and the rights of minorities, all the things that really count have advanced very rapidly. But we can say that the advance for the richest has been far more rapid than for the poorest. So, we have a system that in some ways does its best for the least needy, and does the least for the most needy.
Now, many people would say, okay, well, that’s fundamentally changed the system. Well, most systems don’t generate advances for anyone. So, we have to be careful to say, okay, how do we, without taking away from the advances broadly, how do we get some of that innovation and thinking brought to the neediest 2 billion.
What I suggested in my speech on creative capitalism was that there were good ideas about this, to get companies to think about the markets and try and pursue profits there through creativity, and then for the toughest part of the market how to encourage them, even when there’s not a profit, to offer their products at very low cost, like we do with software or some drug companies do with their drugs, and to think about the needs of these people.
Ideally every company would have some of their innovators go out and see the particular needs and think how to craft the activities. At Microsoft we have this theme in a lot of locations, but it’s actually our laboratory in India that’s been the most aggressive of saying, okay, we can do microfinance with the cell phone, we can do digital health records even off of the cell phone. So, there’s a lot of ideas coming out of that.
So, this is largely a plea to business, to particularly the big businesses in the world to think more creatively. In many sectors I would say the best companies — in food it would be somebody like Nestle, in pharmaceuticals it would be like GlaxoSmithKline, in technology maybe Microsoft, in banking people who are reaching out to the microfinance sector — if everyone was as good as the best, then that alone would be very dramatic in taking this innovation and having it apply more broadly than it does today.
So, we need new ideas on this, but I think it’s exciting, and I think employees care. Why can creative capitalism work? Partly because employees want to work for a company that’s having the impact on the neediest. Microsoft’s reputation, our ability to hire is improved by the fact we’re so dedicated to doing these things, and really measuring the impact.
ALI FARAMAWY: Questions from the floor? Yes, please.
QUESTION: I’m the Ambassador of Switzerland in Abu Dhabi.
Mr. Gates, in Davos you announced also that you will invest in farmers. How will that work? You will give them technology or what will you do exactly?
BILL GATES: Well, I’m maybe one of the world’s biggest believers in technology, but, of course, it has to be technology that’s adapted to the tough conditions, and really being realistic about that there’s often not electricity or not the rich training. A lot of the technology we have that works in the rich world has to be changed to work, particularly say in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The particular grants we announced had to do with taking coffee farmers and teaching them how to grow the brand of coffee that at least in the United States is very, very valuable. They don’t grow that today. I think it’s actually called Arabia is the type. But they don’t have the right sorting to do that well, they don’t have the right infrastructure. So, reaching out and training them was this grant, it’s a company called TechnoServe, who’s a great non-governmental organization that we’re using as a partner there.
There’s work on new seeds for rice that can withstand drought. There’s work on fertilizer to get it delivered into Sub-Saharan Africa. Most of this was focused on Africa, some on Bangladesh, and some on India, because it’s about the poorest. We have commitments from big companies to buy these products. So it was partly dairy, partly coffee.
We do work on new seeds, so that’s kind of a technology piece, but the training and the roads is in some ways even the harder piece than the improved seeds.
So, in my foundation agriculture is very important, because 70 percent of the poorest, the people who live on less than a dollar a day, are people who have small farms. So, if you’re going to improve their world, you have to increase that productivity.
Another thing the foundation does is health related things. We didn’t have any announcements about that there, but that’s over half of what we do are the diseases that affect them.
We set a clear goal that we’ve published of doubling the income of in the coffee case 180,000 small farmers, and we’ll be able to see — it will take four years but we’ll be able to see was that achieved or not.
QUESTION: How can Microsoft help in transforming the region from being just a technology user to a technology producer?
BILL GATES: Well, the goal of building up our partner skill sets and working with the universities, and even getting this idea of long term research that has been so — why is the United States so much a leader in creating and pushing technology? I would say the key reason is the strength of the top universities. We’ve been willing to invest heavily in those universities, get great professors there.
And these are universities that don’t think of the boundary between university and business as a bad boundary. It’s a very soft boundary. So, Microsoft works with MIT and Stanford and Carnegie Mellon, these very top institutions. And, for example, robotics there’s breakthrough ideas; security there’s breakthrough ideas.
So, the IT world is capacity constrained; that is, there’s not enough engineers and solution experts in the world. So, whatever country is turning them out, they will have jobs, wherever the people with very, very top talent are. If you create the right local atmosphere, hopefully most of them will stay and do their work there. Some that go away will come back, which is the way that India got developed quite a bit was that was beneficial to them.
So, the key is how many great people can be developed. You need expertise to manage the local projects, and then you need to go even beyond that in order to do fundamental IT, which could be an exported good.
In the long run I think IT will be one of the big job growth areas in this region, and right now the output is behind what would be necessary. So, right now the IT region is going to be another reason to bring outsiders in, even just to manage these solutions. If we turn that around, then you can get a lot of the basic advances.
ALI FARAMAWY: Yes, sir?
QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Gates. I’ve got a couple of questions, one on Internet governance. A lot of what already has been talked about today relies on the fact that there is an Internet, but we also keep hearing that there is a lot of arguments with different governments on the governance of the in and the fact that most of the first tier servers and the DNS is under the United States, and this is being discussed. Do you see this getting resolved? We have a sort of common governmental Internet, the issue being to the results that the Internet does play the role that is being projected. That is one.
Now, the second question is assuming this does happen, there will be more and more issues being done, services being done across the Internet. Where do you see Windows, the future of Windows in this new networked world? Is it going to be a theme of Windows with big servers, or is it going to be the way it is today? Where is going to be Windows in the next 10 years, let’s say?
BILL GATES: Well, in terms of Windows you’ll have software running in the devices, and software running in your servers that you have, and then software running in servers other people have, and let’s call those services. Microsoft will be one of the many people offering services, like we do with Hotmail or Virtual Earth today. There will always be a balance. In the device itself the new things like speech recognition, visual recognition, understanding Arabic grammar, English grammar, that’s stuff that you need great responsiveness, and needs to work even when you leave the connection, when you’re on a plane flight or somewhere where the Internet is unavailable or too expensive, that’s in the device.
Now, a lot of your storage will be copied up to a server or a service so that even if you switch devices, it’s all still there. So, this storage will just be a cached storage, but running software there is the way it’s very fast for you. The chips to do that are very inexpensive. So, there will be more in the Internet than before. So, instead of being half on the PC and half in the server, it will be a third in the Internet, a third in the servers, a third in the PCs.
Actually if anything might get below there, it’s that server level, because these Internet servers are growing very fast. But the natural interface I talked about drives — the device has to be better. So, if you look at the software on a cell phone or a PC, it will be bigger.
Now, the capacity of the hardware is growing even faster than that, so it will be more responsive, it will be — and there’s a lot of great things we’re doing with the user interface.
We do have a way to run Windows in servers called Windows Terminal Server, so you actually have flexibility of where Windows itself runs.
In terms of Internet governance, this issue really in my view doesn’t truly matter. I mean, the Internet has been run very well, and those domain servers are not about policy. The policy about what content you allow in your country or how you price it or anything, this doesn’t affect that.
There’s been some discussion that, wow, the U.S., this group, ICANN, has run it perfectly, they’ve never made a mistake, and people say, well, isn’t that somehow connected to the U.S., but everyone is worried that if you give it to a UN group you could only do worse because there’s never been a problem with it. So, people are a little conservative about this.
I’m not an expert on it myself. I think eventually some international group will probably get it, but people should be a little conservative about changing something that’s not broken, and that it’s quite valuable to have that going. But it doesn’t take away any of your control over the policies of how the Internet is used in your country.
ALI FARAMAWY: Actually, Bill, maybe following up on that point, there was a point raised earlier about the emergence of social networks or like Facebook and MySpace, and the fact that in some of our countries, or countries in our part of the world, who do not really have the highest Internet penetration, but do have some of the absolute highest numbers of users on Facebook, like Turkey, Egypt, and Pakistan, and so on. Any comments on particularly the role of those social networks, and how can they contribute to something bigger, or should we just turn them off?
BILL GATES: Well, that’s up to you to choose. I mean, for the business user we have taken what’s good about Facebook, that you can find other people and create communities, and within a business environment where you can protect the information and control it and back it up, and filter it, we’ve on SharePoint created the equivalent of Facebook with the extra business functionality. So, within a company or a group of companies you can get the good parts of that.
You know, things like Facebook do raise the question of parents knowing what their kids are up to, what’s allowed, and these are not simple issues. At what age do you let your kids have a lot of freedom? Do you read all their e-mail? Up to what age? Do you lock their phone so they can only call certain people? Up to what age? If their phone has GPS in it, are you as a parent allowed to look it up and see everywhere they went? What age are you supposed to stop doing that? Even cars will have GPS, so if you loan your kid the car, you can see where they’re going, how fast they’re going.
So, all these privacy issues, technology forces us to be more explicit about what these boundaries are.
We’re building into our software things where parents can set time limits on games or browsing. We build in so that the filtering can be provided locally. We just create the framework, but the idea of what should be filtered, any country can come in and apply whatever standards for whatever age group it thinks is necessary.
So, these are not — you know, there’s no simple answer for these things. We want to just have software enable people to enforce the policies that they think are appropriate, which will vary a lot, depending on the age of the person, and it will vary somewhat country to country.
ALI FARAMAWY: And maybe we can close with your comments, particularly on the Gulf region. This is your first visit to the area. You’ve been to Dubai and now Abu Dhabi. You had a number of meetings with the UAE business and government. You had a number of meetings with the Gulf governments. Any last comments about particularly the Gulf area prospects going forward?
BILL GATES: Well, I’ve been looking forward to coming, and I’m sorry it took a long time for me to get here. I kept hearing great things about what was going on here, and certainly both in terms of visually seeing the level of investment, but more importantly talking to the people about their optimism, their sense that even the success that’s happening in a few places today can be spread more broadly to the region, including the countries with the larger population, where things have been a bit tougher, that’s very exciting for me, and it really does fit in with many areas that Microsoft can help, like in education.
I also heard some chances for some of the things my foundation cares about, to work with partners here, and that’s going to bring me back into the region, and definitely in the next couple of years I’ll be back sometime next year, so it won’t be a long, long time.
But I’m really pleased to see that the fact we came into this region early, that we built up the partnerships, that’s really starting to make a difference for us and our partners, but most importantly for the way that technology can help your countries achieve their goals.
ALI FARAMAWY: Thank you very much.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.