Bill Gates speaks on philanthropy at Peking University

11:12, June 13, 2011      

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Bill Gates answers students' questions after his speech at Peking University, on June 11, 2011. (Lou Linwei/ Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)

On June 11, Bill Gates, the second richest man worldwide and co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, delivered a speech titled "Gates to Success" at Peking University, which focused on his own experience of philanthropic work. The event was hosted by Sun Qixiang, dean of the School of Economics and attended by about 300 students.

As the non-executive chairman of Microsoft, Gates indicated in his speech that he has been focused on Microsoft and the management of software for over 35 years, but now his attention has been diverted to charity work and his own foundation, although he still is somewhat involved in the area of technology.

In 2000, Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft and co-established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with his wife Melinda in Seattle, Washington. Guided by the founding principle that we all have equal value, the foundation aims to reduce hunger and extreme poverty as well as enhance health care in developing countries and to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology in America.

Driven by the foundation's principle, Gates said: "If we look at the advances, whether in technology or medicine, we can see that it's very difficult to make sure that everybody gets the benefits on those advances. For example, vaccines, which are quite in demand, are invented and used in rich countries but passed and taken over the past 20 years before they get to the children who actually need them most in countries like Kenya, Africa. And if you have the disease like malaria, which is only in poor countries, there is no effort put into creating the new vaccine for that, because there's a very limited market for it."

Most entrenched in the poorest countries, malaria is a parasitic disease responsible for the deaths of at least a million people every year, 90 percent of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. The greatest death toll occurs in children under 5. Although many vaccines for malaria have been invented and manufactured, a large number of African children are still beyond the reach of the life-saving vaccines because of financial and institutional problems.

When comparing his current charitable work with his previous business, Gates admits there are a lot of differences.

"This is a very big change from what I was doing earlier, and it is in terms of how we measure the results. There is no longer the measure of how many copies we sell but of how many lives we save and how many children don't get sick," he said.

But more importantly, he believes that he has actually learned a lot of valuable lessons from his management in Microsoft that could be applied to the Foundation.

"In many ways it is the same because Microsoft was always about bringing innovation by hiring the smartest people, by leading as many changes as possible, putting together great teams and giving them time to do their work," Gates said. "Sometimes, some breakthroughs take 10 years to get done. That type of patience but leading to innovation actually characterizes what the foundation is doing."

In China, since a small office opened in Beijing in 2007 under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Health of the People's Republic of China, the foundation has made efforts to fight HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, improve tobacco control and invest in agricultural research. In addition, Gates said: "The idea is to find great scientists whose ideas could help the world as a whole, including Africa. We are giving out grants."

For example, the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative he mentioned has awarded 88 grantees from 25 countries 100,000 U.S. dollars each to explore early-stage projects focusing on breakthroughs to eradicate polio, cure HIV infection and develop cell-phone-based health applications, innovative sanitation systems and new technologies to improve the health of mothers and newborns.

"We know we will be doing more grants in China because the level of capability just keeps going up. And I am sure a number of them will be with the university and the leading minds."

Finally, Bill Gates disclosed that on the night of June 16, he would leave Beijing for London to raise money on a little conference, which will be used to buy the best vaccines in the world for all over the world's children for the first time.

By Zheng Qingting, People's Daily Online
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