The world's richest man shares his thoughts on the big issues...and how he helps

Bill Gates is one of the world’s richest people however the focus is rarely on his philanthropic efforts – he’s an example of someone who uses their abundance of money for good. In a recent Reddit Ask Me Anything (a forum where anyone can ask questions to famous, influential and interesting people), Bill took the time out to talk to people and talk about the issues our media lets fall by the wayside.

Recently, Bill Gates created a sewage water system called Omniprocessor (affectionately know as the ‘poop water machine’) which can turn raw sewage into clean drinking water with no difference to tap water at all…other than it has no chemicals or nasty bacteria. When asked what the main obstacle to the success of the system in third world country is, Bill said, “Sewage is a problem. Since it costs money to process it just gets dumped in slums in poor countries. The system the rich world uses of pumping in clean water and pumping it to a processing plant is too expensive. One team… is send[ing] a prototype machine to Senegal later this year. Getting rid of sewage helps a lot to reduce disease and improve living conditions”. He hopes to have his sewage water processor in dozens of cities within 5 years however “the timeframe is longer than I would like…but we can scale up fast after that”.

Other users, who clearly care about world issues and Bill’s opinion on them, asked about agricultural practices in Africa and how the average person can help Africa’s starvation problem. Bill Gates believes that government aid is making a huge difference but African productivity needs to be raised to avoid malnutrition and to lift themselves out of poverty.

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But how does a busy man like Bill decide on what causes he and his wife Melinda focus on? “There are a lot of great causes”, Bill says. “It is important not to be frozen trying to pick since it is important to specialise and really learn the area you are trying to help. We picked health inequity as our global thing and educational inequity as our national thing and most of our projects fit into these areas. Part of the beauty of philanthropy is the diversity of causes and approaches that get tried. It is far more risk oriented than government or private sector spending which makes it special when it is done right”.

Lately, there has been more and more debate on vaccination against common diseases. Bill said that vaccines have improved life in poorer countries and that being able to grow up healthily is a basic need. He also shared why he believes it’s important to eradicate diseases such a polio, and said that polio is a big focus for him as he works with African countries.

While some may think that technology is making us less intelligent, one of the pioneers of today’s technological advances doesn’t think so. Bill says that “Technology is not making people less intelligent. If you just look at the complexity people like in entertainment you can see a big change over my lifetime. Technology is letting people get their questions answered better so they stay more curious”.

And what has been his hardest challenge so far? The fight against HIV and the tough scientific issues.

It really makes you think when someone so influential could choose to talk about anything he wanted or to self promote, yet Bill Gates is out there doing and giving. There are more issues out in the world than who our Prime Minister is or what that celebrity is wearing…. but what do you think?


Is Bill Gates setting a good example? Should more focus be on the bigger world issues rather than what’s going on in Canberra? Should the news report on more world problems than what it does now?