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Bill Gates wishes technology to reach the poor

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has appealed to the Islamic world not to make same mistakes as the West by making technology out of reach of the poor.

“As you focus on advanced technology, I want to exhort you to do something that in the West was largely neglected, and that is to keep in mind not just the needs for those who are well off and can easily afford the first generation of the technology but keep in mind over time, how, by making it low cost, it can also be of benefit for the poorest,” he told a conference in Abu Dhabi.

His remarks are likely to raise eyebrows among Microsoft’s customers. Mr Gates helped to grow the US company into one of the world’s biggest technology businesses by charging considerable sums for its Windows software, and recently ruffled feathers with a series of hefty price rises.

Speaking to an audience full of sheikhs and princes, he also called for a more business-like approach to charitable donations, focusing on return on investment over the long term.

"We have all made mistakes with our giving in the past, but we all get to learn where we might have done better, but there are some clear models,” he said. “If you can get health, agriculture and education right, it’s a springboard for development and allows countries to step up and become self-sufficient.

“They want to bring the same set of values used in the private sector [to establish] that it’s a sustainable impact and that you are not doing the same thing again and again.”

He used the campaign his charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has been waging against polio as a case in point.

“When you get to the end of an eradication [of a disease] the cost per case avoided is astronomical but what it does is prevent all the cases for the rest of time. Unless we get rid of it, it could spread back. When we finish the job there are immense savings going forward literally tens of billions over time,” he said.

Mr Gates, also paid tribute to Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple who died last year.
“Steve did a phenomenal piece of work. Most people would expect today that it was going out of business and he actually came back in and not only righted the ship, but made it incredibly valuable. It’s a phenomenal business story.

“Steve and I were friends, we were competitors, we were a lot of different things, but it was amazing what he did.”

However, Mr Gates, who remains chairman of Microsoft, but stepped back from the day to day running of the business four years ago, ruled himself out of making a similar return to day-to-day business.

“I spent about 15pc of my time as chairman of Microsoft, I give them lots of hints and things. 

They’re moving ahead with Windows 8, which combines the best of the tablet and the PC... but I didn’t retire from Microsoft because I thought things were getting boring. But I did decide that the philanthropic role would be the place where my contribution would be more unique, so that is what I will focus on for the rest of my life.”

Microsoft used to be the biggest technology company in the world, but has fallen far behind its rival Apple in recent years. 

The company, which is headquartered in Redmond, Washington, has struggled to keep pace with demand for the tablets and smartphones produced by its rivals.

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