By Gabriel Noble
Bill and Melinda Gates, the undisputed heavyweights of philanthropy and ranked the wealthiest in the world, sat down with Yahoo Global News Anchor, Katie Couric, and addressed income inequality and other prevalent issues impacting people globally.
In response to Oxfam International's finding that “the richest one percent of people will own half of the world’s wealth by 2016,” Bill shared that he believes “philanthropy is part of how we deal with those inequities.” Melinda adds that “philanthropy can point the light on an issue that maybe isn’t being funded, or... take a risk that others won't take.” Using the example of philanthropists driving the charter school movement, Bill makes the point that often with less money than the public school nearby, they are having incredible success getting students into four-year colleges.
Bill and Melinda were visiting New York to release their 2015 Gates Annual Letter,which predicts “The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history.” The Gates Foundation, which was founded in 2000, has provided more than $30 billion in funding toward research and innovation in science, education, health, and technology and believes that breakthroughs in these areas will make a dramatic impact globally in the years to come. In addition to eliminating contaminated water and food, which claims 1.5 million children’s lives per year, Bill and Melinda promise unprecedented opportunities from the innovation in online education, mobile banking, vaccinations for diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia, and farming techniques.
Couric also explores issues such as income inequity and the gender gap in education and address Bill Gates’s naiveté when it comes to the expected impact that the foundation’s “Grand Challenges” initiative would have in its first decade.
One of the most innovative breakthroughs to be funded by the Gates Foundation is the “Omniprocessor,” a low-cost waste-treatment plant that can turn sewage into clean drinking water. With one plant being able to convert sewage for a community of 100,000 people, this could impact the lives of millions in the developing world who suffer from water scarcity. With a prototype making its first appearance in Senegal, Bill Gates says, “We’ll prove that we can process sewage very inexpensively and improve the quality of life pretty dramatically.”
A fierce proponent of gender equality, Melinda believes that “education is the great leveler” and has a ripple effect on both the lives of a girl’s family and the economy at large. She explains to Couric that when a girl has access to secondary education, it will mean she will have children later, and those children are twice as likely to make it to their fifth birthday. And this message is starting to make an impact. Upon recent visits to the U.N., she now hears African leaders discussing the importance of girls’ education and how it can impact the country’s GDP.
Human banking, as we know it, has proved not to be an effective way to save and spend for everyone, particularly people in poorer countries of the world. In fact, according to the Gates Annual Letter, because traditional banks can’t afford to serve the poor due to the cost, 2.5 billion adults don’t currently have a bank account. Bill Gates believes with the innovation of mobile banking, “We see going from very few of the poorest having banking to virtually all of them in this magical 15-year period.” Melinda adds that this is a game-changer for woman to participate in the economy, women who are often the ones dealing with health emergencies in the family or school payments. By being able to access their account on their phone from a rural village, Melinda says, “They can save a little bit a day, then they’ve got the money when they need it.”
Watch the complete interview below: