India’s education system needs to be far better than it is today: Bill Gates

TOI Guest Editor Bill Gates , who was the world’s richest man for almost two decades and is still its foremost philanthropist, talks about public health, technology and ideas that could change the world

He may have recently been replaced as the world’s richest man by Jeff Bezos+ , but meeting Bill Gates is still an immensely enriching experience.

The famed intellect is as rapier-sharp as ever, and his eyes light up with an endearing nerdish delight as he passionately holds forth on potentially life-changing ideas. He remains intensely focused and driven, but also exhibits an unexpectedly impish sense of humour.

There are many legendary tales of unprepared Microsoft employees being subjected to severe tongue lashings by an acerbic Gates when he ran the software giant. So, it was with a degree of anxiety that senior editors of The Times of Indiaassembled on Thursday to show Gates the articles that had been commissioned by him earlier when he agreed to serve as TOI Guest Editor. Gates went through the articles very carefully, and there was an audible exhalation of relief when he pronounced himself satisfied. “I’m glad you’ve got the bit about the new three-drug combination being used to treat elephantiasis,” he said.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • On factors holding India back, Gates said, “My biggest disappointment is the education system. I do want to create higher expectations about it.”
  • On Swachh Bharat, he said “Building toilets is like opening savings a/cs. The real challenge is getting people to use them.”
  • On Aadhaar privacy issue: It’s just a 12-digit lie-detector system. Privacy issues can come up with the apps that get built on top of it, Gates said.

TOI Guest Editor Bill Gates , who was the world’s richest man for almost two decades and is still its foremost philanthropist, talks about public health, technology and ideas that could change the world

He may have recently been replaced as the world’s richest man by Jeff Bezos+ , but meeting Bill Gates is still an immensely enriching experience.

The famed intellect is as rapier-sharp as ever, and his eyes light up with an endearing nerdish delight as he passionately holds forth on potentially life-changing ideas. He remains intensely focused and driven, but also exhibits an unexpectedly impish sense of humour.

There are many legendary tales of unprepared Microsoft employees being subjected to severe tongue lashings by an acerbic Gates when he ran the software giant. So, it was with a degree of anxiety that senior editors of The Times of Indiaassembled on Thursday to show Gates the articles that had been commissioned by him earlier when he agreed to serve as TOI Guest Editor. Gates went through the articles very carefully, and there was an audible exhalation of relief when he pronounced himself satisfied. “I’m glad you’ve got the bit about the new three-drug combination being used to treat elephantiasis,” he said.

TOI Guest Editor Bill Gates goes through a special report that he had asked for.

“The two-drug combination requires five rounds and reduces the disease by 60-80% whereas the new three-drug combination has been shown to reduce microfilariae by 99% with the first dose itself. The triple-drug therapy is one of the most exciting things in the world of global health. India is one of the first places where we are going to go big on it. All three drugs are donated…so the donor money and government money all goes towards paying workers to go out there and distribute the drugs and then double check the quality of those campaigns. We are taking a lot of help from people doing the polio programme, because they have got such great results.”

Since he devotes so much time to India, does he feel that there are any specific factors holding the country back? “Most trends are positive, but my biggest disappointment when it comes to India is the education system. It should be far better. I don’t want to be critical, but I do want to create higher expectations about it.”

Bill Gates is known to take an active interest in sanitation, so what does he think of the Swachh Bharat programme+ ? “Well, building toilets is like opening savings accounts. The real challenge is getting people to use them,” he quipped. “Part of our Swachh Bharat partnership with the government is to try and make sure that the toilets that are built are not so bad that you’d rather not use them. The first stage is behaviour change. In some parts of India, it’s worked really well, in some parts not as well. Once a village passes the view that nobody should be doing this (open defecation), then it tends to stay. The nice thing is that if you intervene for just a few years then sometimes it becomes the expectation. So that’s behaviour change and a lot of donors are doing that now.”
He paused to issue a warning that his response was about to get quite graphic. Assured that this was not a problem, he cheerfully plunged right in. “Now, what do you do about faecal waste? It either just builds up, so that the toilet becomes unusable, or you can have a truck come and get it. But then they just go and dump it into the river or somewhere. But five years from now, we are going to have a new toilet which actually, essentially burns the waste in the toilet. That’s the dream, to re-invent the toilet.
For more information go to Official page Times of India

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