Gates Foundation wants you to become a global citizen

2015-01-22 15:35

It will take only 15 years for the lives of the world’s poor people to increase more than ever in history, thanks to modern technology, the multi-billionaires and philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates have said.

In their 2015 Gates Annual Letter, published through their $42 billion Gates Foundation on the web this morning (www.gatesnotes.com) the Gates couple urged people to become “global citizens”.

“We think the next 15 years will see the major breakthroughs for most people in poor countries,” they write in their letter. “They will live longer and in better health. They will have unprecedented opportunities to get an education, eat nutritious food, and benefit from mobile banking.”

New vaccines, hardier crops, much cheaper smartphones and tablets are some of the innovations that will help more people, they said.

They added that, although rich people will benefit from these innovations, the improvement in the lives of the poor “will be far more fundamental” because it will affect basic things like their health.

Innovation in agriculture means Africa will be able to feed itself by 2030 without relying on imports. Although there are more people farming in Africa than in places like the United States, African farmers get five times less yield than American farmers. With access to the right technology, African farmers could theoretically double their yields,” they write.

One of the promising trends, they say, is more farmers have access to cell phones and can receive “all sorts of information, from weather reports to current market prices, via text messages”.

They also say improvements to roads could help farmers transport their goods for sale more easily.

Polio in Africa could be eradicated this year, they write, while vaccines could see malaria eradicated shortly after 2030. More people will also be treated for HIV/Aids and the number of people with the virus will start going down, they say.

They predict that child deaths will be halved in the next 15 years. “In 1990, one in ten children in the world died before age 5. Today, it’s one in 20. By 2030, that number will be one in 40.”

This is because vaccination and sanitation are set to increase and mothers will be helped to take better care of their babies.

Digital banking will also change lives, and by 2030 the 2.5 billion people who don’t have a bank account today will be storing money and making payment with their phones, they predict.

It is cheaper for banks to service people through mobile technologies than to establish brick-and-mortar bank branches.

“One interesting feature of digital financial innovation is that some of it is happening in poor countries first,” they write.

They also say although better software will never replace teachers, it will “revolutionize learning”. They add, however, that the things holding girls back from getting an education will have to be addressed so that education can help bring about greater equality.

They urged people all over the globe to become global citizens (by signing up at globalcitizen.org) to help improve the lives of the poor. This does not mean “you have to dedicate your life to helping the poor”. Being a global citizen means “you follow an issue of global importance”.

They write: “There is overwhelming evidence that people care about others who are suffering – when they can see the suffering.”

When people see tsunamis or earthquakes, there is generally a global outpouring of support. “The problem is that ongoing tragedies like diseases and poverty don’t make the news,” they write. “They’re invisible to many of us. And so the caring of millions of people go untapped.”

They say global citizens should hold the UN accountable for the new development goals it will set in September for the next 15 years.

In the year 2000 the UN set Millennium Development Goals with a deadline of 2015. These goals included the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, gender equality, the reduction of child mortality, and the combating of HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases.

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