I had asked my readers a few weeks ago, that if they had the opportunity to ask Bill Gate’s any question, what would they ask. I was amazed at not only the amount of responses, but the quality and range of questions offered.
I am quite fortunate to know four of the sixteen attendees that were invited to the Bill Gates lunch. For this post, I chose to interview three of them I know quite well. Daniel Egan, Rob Zelt and Matthew Roche. All we’re chosen to attend due to their enormous contributions and dedication to the Microsoft development community. None of the attendees were Microsoft employees.
I sat down with Daniel, Rob and Matthew and shared the many responses on my blog. After several hour of debate, the questions that most stuck out to them were “You and your wife's foundation have done a great deal of work for America's schools. Are you planning to expand your global humanitarian efforts to include similar education programs? Or are there other goals your foundation has to accomplish first?” posted by Rachael King and a simple yet direct, “What’s next"?” from Lindy Wiseman.
The day finally arrived for them. Over a lunch of chicken and rice, the conversation revolved around topics of a technical nature. What Daniel, Rob and Matthew all said was that as soon as the discussion turned to his philanthropic ventures, his energy and passion shone through. They said that he would often cut a piece of chicken, go to take a bite and then get caught up in a thought and never finish the bite. His lunch went cold as the discussion heated up.
Bill Gates philosophy is quite simple. One, treat his foundation no different that any other business venture. Two, put the money where it does the most good and has the highest return on investment. Three, make people responsible for bottom lines and results.
Rob Zelt said an example that Bill Gates gave was how to get medicine at a low price to people who most needed it. Solution? Rather than bicker back and forth with the medical company over price, Mr. Gates bought the medical company and removed that obstacle. Finding the most direct use for dollars with the largest ROI is his key.
When asked why not put smart boards in ever school, Matthew Roche said Mr. Gate’s response was simple. He stated that they could. But all the smart boards, computers and technical tools pale to the most important tool of all, parental involvement. When parents get involved in their children's education, when they find out exactly what is going on every day, then the tools we place in the schools become effective.
When asked about a larger scale and in particular in regards to the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) program Mr. Gates said without political will and social commitment, technology can just as easily work in the opposite direction. Just dropping a computer in the hands of a poor community is not, in and of itself, going to change the circumstances people find themselves in. To achieve the foundation's goals it's important to combine technology with the right market conditions. Technology to develop vaccines doesn't work without the proper market forces to make medicines more affordable.
Daniel Egan asked how user groups like INETA (The International .NET Association) for which Daniel serves as the North American president, can harness their resources and members to make a difference. The response was simple. If a very small amount of time was donated by each developer towards a large scale software project that could measure crops, rainfall, infrastructure, growth, etc… imagine the result. It is not money that solves these problems (all though lack of it will always be an obstacle) but imagination and a personal commitment towards change and making planet a better place. Technology is a tool that helps change. But it’s the individuals that will always drive change.
Today is July 1st. It is the first day that Bill Gates will no longer be the head of Microsoft. He now finds himself in a transition as he goes from driving Microsoft to driving the Gates Foundation. He will now begin to build a new brand. He will visit China, India and Asia this year. He will lead the fight in finding vaccines for HIV/AIDS. He will work with the UN to create a clear cut agenda and with clear cut goals and objectives. Objectives with metrics that must be met. Gates has said he'll bring the same optimism, focus on scientific breakthroughs and rigorous measurements that has characterized Microsoft to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
And yes Calvin Cato, he does own and Xbox and is a Halo fan. :)
For more information visit the Gate Foundation at www.gatesfoundation.org .
Matthew Roche (2nd Row Center -White T-Shirt and Glasses)
Daniel Egan - (1st Row – White shirt/Black Pants)
Rob Zelt - (Back row- Glasses, White and Blue Shirt on the end)
Bill Gates - (Center)