Bill Gates: The Business Of Effective Giving

Bill Gates doesn’t care if he’s forgotten after his death, as long as major diseases like polio and others are eradicated.

“I don’t need to be remembered at all,” the co-founder of Microsoft told Agence France-Press (AFP) in New York on Wednesday.

With a Forbes estimates personal fortune of $66 billion to his name, after stepping down from the running of Microsoft, this 57-year-old is now applying the same dedication he put into building that empire into philanthropy.

Gates and his wife’s charitable focus — channeled through the “Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation” — is tackling the big issues of world poverty and disease.

“None of the people who are at risk of polio know anything about me, nor should they. They are dealing with day to day life and the fact that their child might get crippled,” Gates told AFP in their interview.

The foundation has already paid out $25 billion to various projects fighting disease and extreme poverty. A further $36 billion is earmarked for the same destination.

“My wife and I have decided that our foundation will spend all its money within 20 years of when neither of us are around, so we’re not trying to create some perpetual thing,” Gates reveals.

The Seattle native believes the worldwide eradication of Polio, the crippling childhood disease, is possible. Already vanquished in India, the frontiers of Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan remain.

“Within my lifetime, polio’s not the only disease we should be able to eradicate,” says Gates. “Even malaria — although that’s more like a several decades effort — should be within reach.”

Bill Gtes aims to bring corporate efficiency to philanthropy

Gates had strong words, however, about government aid packages from rich countries to struggling ones.

“A lot of that — Cold War aid programs when the West and Soviets battled for supremacy in Africa and elsewhere — was about buying friendship and almost shouldn’t be labeled aid,” he chides.

For Gates, the way forward is to use corporate models of efficiency and target aid to specific goals and then monitor progress closely, the Economic Times notes.

“Business is always focused on measurements and if they get it wrong, they don’t get capital and in extreme cases the company goes out of business,” he said. “Government and philanthropy don’t naturally do the same thing.”

With an optimistic eye on the future, Gates talks of the ability of aid to change what’s perceived as unchangeable.

He examples the new vitality in Ethiopia, once considered a hopeless case, and right now as “the most rapid improvement ever in history” in reducing child mortality.

The final part of the interview was given over to Gate’s views on the US school system. Asian schools “have gone way past us in quality,” he said, adding that they have applied a businesslike approach to monitoring teacher performance.

“The idea of measuring and giving feedback, that’s what we’re missing,” Gates reflects.

“Feedback is how you drive that excellence. In some areas, like baseball, we measure, we know your batting average — we’re serious about baseball. But education is also worth being serious about.”

For more on Gates’ plans to bring corporate efficiency to the aid world, click to read his annual letter.