The World (in 2030) according to Gates

24 Jan 2015


Bill and Melinda GatesThe lives of people in poor countries will improve faster over the next 15 years than at any other time in history - all driven by technplogy. And their lives will improve more than anyone else's. This is among the bold prediction being made by Bill and Melinda Gates, billionaire philanthropists, in the 2015 'annual Gates letter,' known as 'Gates Notes.'

The Microsoft founder and his wife, who are now fully focused on working to improve the lives of millions of poor people in the emerging world – through their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, started in 2000 – released their annual letter, projecting the road map for the next 15 years.

''We started our foundation in 2000 with the idea that by backing innovative work in health and education, we could help dramatically reduce inequity,'' the Gates couple said in the letter. ''The progress we've seen so far is very exciting - so exciting that we are doubling down on the bet we made 15 years ago, and picking ambitious goals for what's possible 15 years from now.''

According to Gates Notes, the next 15 years will see major breakthroughs for most people in poor countries. ''They will be living longer and in better health. They will have unprecedented opportunities to get an education, eat nutritious food, and benefit from mobile banking.

These breakthroughs will be driven by innovation in technology - ranging from new vaccines and hardier crops to much cheaper smartphones and tablets - and by innovations that help deliver those things to more people.''

While exciting new advances would enhance the lives of the rich over the next 15 years, the improvements in the lives of the poor will be far more fundamental, which is the basics of a healthy, productive life.

''It's great that more people in rich countries will be able to watch movies on super hi-resolution screens,'' the two philanthropists observed. ''It's even better that more parents in poor countries will know their children aren't going to die.''

The annual Gates' letter focused on four major issues concerning the poor: health, farming, banking education. Broadly, they predicted that child deaths will go down and more diseases will be wiped out; Africa will be able to feed itself; mobile banking will help the poor transform their lives; and better software will revolunise learning.

The world, according to the Gates' couple, is going to make unprecedented progress in global health. In 1990, one in 10 children in the world died before the age of five; today it has come down to one in 20. By 2030, that number will be one in 40. Importantly, almost all countries will include vaccines for diarrhoea and pneumonia, two of the biggest killers of children, in their immunisation programmes.

The number of women who die in childbirth will also be reduced by two-thirds over the next 15 years. The Gates' are also confident that the world will wipe out four diseasese – including polio – by 2030. ''Destroying a disease utterly is a very difficult thing to do - so difficult, in fact, that it's happened only once in history, when smallpox was eradicated in 1980,'' they point out. ''But if we keep working hard, we can eradicate four diseases by 2030.''

The drugs that can stop these scourges are now being donated in huge numbers by pharmaceutical companies, and they're being used more strategically thanks to advances in digital maps that show where diseases are most prevalent. Last year these free medicines were distributed to 800 million people.

Innovations in farming will help millions of farmers in the developing world. The world has already developed better fertiliser and crops that are more productive, nutritious, and drought- and disease-resistant; with access to these and other existing technologies, African farmers could theoretically double their yields.

''With greater productivity, farmers will also grow a greater variety of food, and they'll be able to sell their surpluses to supplement their family's diet with vegetables, eggs, milk, and meat. With the right investments, we can deliver innovation and information to enough farmers in Africa to increase productivity by 50 percent for the continent overall.''

Referring to the banking sector, the annual Gates' letter notes that mobile banking will help the poor transform their lives.

While it did not specifically refer to India's ambitious Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana – which has entered the Guinness Book of World Records for enrolling 115 million new account-holders in just five months – the letter noted by 2030, two billion people who don't have a bank account will be storing money and making payments with their phones. ''And by then, mobile money providers will be offering the full range of financial services, from interest-bearing savings accounts to credit to insurance.''

The annual letter also predicts that as high-speed cell networks grow and smartphones become as cheap as today's voice-only phones, online education will flourish. ''For people in rich countries, it will be an important step forward. For the rest of the world, especially in places where growth is creating demand for educated workers, it will be a revolution.''

Before a child even starts primary school, she will be able to use her mom's smartphone to learn her numbers and letters, giving her a big head start, predict the Gates couple. Software will be able to see when she's having trouble with the material and adjust for her pace. She will collaborate with teachers and other students in a much richer way. If she is learning a language, she'll be able to speak out loud and the software will give her feedback on her pronunciation.

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