Bill Gates is once again making the case for innovation in his 24-page annual letter, where he extols what it can do in the areas of agriculture and global health.
Gates said the private market does a great job in making innovation work for people who have money, but what the world needs is one that generates a large impact on those in need.
To spur innovation, Gates highlighted in his letter the importance of investing in research. Gates said it is “shocking” how little money is spent on agricultural research — $3 billion a year. Very little of that money goes toward research that concerns small farmers in Africa or South Asia, where they are most needed. Farmers in those regions are besieged with plant diseases and adverse effects of climate change, which often result in food crises.
Gates made the same appeal on global health. He said that while there has been progress in global health, such as the success of polio eradication in India and the reduced deaths due to malaria, more needs to be done.
The biggest challenge in spearheading innovation in these sectors, however, comes down to funding, which Gates said was “pretty scary right now.” He said many people think money spent on development is wasted or does not get lasting results.
“Melinda and I will spend a lot of time in the coming year explaining why they’re mistaken,” he said, adding that people need to know modest investments — be it in fighting plant diseases, treating people with AIDS or getting more people on polio vaccination campaigns — make a huge difference among the poor.
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