With Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on the way out, some have wondered if the company’s co-founder, Bill Gates, might be interested in returning to his role as head honcho. But if a new interview is any indication, Gates thinks there are things far more important than tech that deserve his attention.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Financial Times, which focused primarily on his work to bring health aid to the world’s impoverished regions, Gates offers a glimpse into how much his views have changed regarding the importance of technology in our lives.
I certainly love the IT thing … But when we want to improve lives, you’ve got to deal with more basic things like child survival, child nutrition,” Gates said.
Commenting on how some major tech companies have brought Internet access to cash-strapped nations, Gates said, “As a priority? It’s a joke.”
The shift in Gates’ views on the world’s most pressing needs may be a result of his work in recent years at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Largely dedicated to delivering vaccines to some of the world’s poorest countries, the foundation has given billions to the fight against AIDS and malaria.
Further describing his decidedly non-tech-centric position with regards to the welfare of humanity, Gates said, “Technology’s amazing, [but] it doesn’t get down to the people most in need in anything near the timeframe we should want it to.”
During a commencement speech in 2007 at his alma mater Harvard, however, Gates argued strongly for the role of technology as a means for transforming the world. “The defining and ongoing innovations of this age -– biotechnology, the computer, the Internet –- give us a chance we’ve never had before to end extreme poverty and end death from preventable disease,” he said.
In the interview, Gates also references India, a country that’s recently been called a burgeoning tech hub. “Fine, go to those Bangalore Infosys centers, but just for the hell of it, go three miles aside, and go look at the guy living with no toilet, no running water,” he said.
“The world is not flat and PCs are not, in the hierarchy of human needs, in the first five rungs.”