Published on February 4th, 20130
Multi-billionaire Bill Gates reveals how we can solve mankind’s main problems
Bill Gates is famous worldwide due to the success of Microsoft, but now devotes his full time to “Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation”, which he founded together with his wife. He spent more than 30 billion dollars so far to improve the quality of human life worldwide, several billion dollars will be used in ongoing projects.
Every year, Gates published a letter detailing the work of the Foundation and its future projects. This week, Bill Gates issued a 2013 letter, prefaced by an essay published in the Wall Street Journal entitled “My Plan to Fix The World’s Biggest Problems“.
Here is the multi-millionaire proposed solutions:
“We can learn a lot about how to improve the world in the twenty-first century a symbol of the industrial era: the steam engine.
To harness steam power took many innovations as William Rosen tells in his book “The Most Powerful Idea in the World”. Among the most important was one method of measuring energy generated by the engine and a micrometer called “Lord Chancellor” that can measure very small distances.
With these measuring instruments, inventors could see if minor changes led to improvements - such as more power or less use of coal - which allow the design of better engines. Lesson of history is this: no feedback provided constant measurements, inventions are rare and irregular. If it exists, however, inventions are natural.
In the last year I realized the important role that measurement plays in improving the human condition. We get incredible progress that establish a clear and find a method that will bring us closer to this goal, in a cycle similar to that described by Rosen in his book.
Measurement may seem like a trivial task, but it is amazing how often is ignored and how hard it is to do it correctly. Over time, the financial aid given to developing countries was measured by the total money invested (and during the Cold War criterion was whether the country remained allied with the U.S.), but it was not relevant how effective was this help to improve people’s lives. Even in our country, even the world there are numerous innovations that allow evaluating the effectiveness of teachers, over 90% of U.S. teachers receive no feedback as to enable them to become better.
An innovation, whether it is a new vaccine or an improved seed may not have an impact unless you reach the people who can benefit from them. We need innovation in measurement to find new and effective ways to deliver these tools and services to clinics, family farms and grades of students who need them.
Last year we identified many examples showing that the measurement can change situations - from schools in Colorado to a clinic in rural areas of Ethiopia. We support these efforts, but it requires more from ourselves and others. As budgets from foundations and governments around the world shrinks, we must apply the lessons learned from the history of the steam engine and to adapt to solve the greatest problems of humanity.
One of the most successful in terms of measurement used to cause global changes is the agreement signed in 2000 by the United Nations. “Millennium Development Goals” agreement supported by 189 countries, established 2015 as the deadline for achieving specific improvements measured in many fields such as health, education and basic income.
Many people assumed that the pact will be signed and then forgotten, like many other announcements made by the UN and governments. In previous decades had made numerous statements announcing the intention to address issues such as human rights hunger or failure, but they did not have a plan which to measure progress. Instead, MDG goals were supported by a number of countries, were clear and specific and focus on the most important priorities.
When Ethiopia decided to attend the MDG agreement in 2000, the country decided to establish objective benchmarks mission of providing all citizens access to health services. Specific goal of reducing child mortality by two thirds has created a task that allowed measurement of success or failure. Ethiopia ambition resulted in attracting significant funds from donors to improve basic health services of the country.
With the Indian state of Kerala, which achieved a network of medical centers, Ethiopia launched its program in 2004, and today has over 15,000 medical centers with 34,000 employees (this is one of the biggest advantages of measurement - provides political leaders can to make comparisons between countries to further learn from the best).
In March of last year I visited the German Gale Medical Center Dalocha region of Ethiopia, where I saw pasted on walls graphics immunizations, malaria and other data. This information is entered into a system (partly computerized, partly on paper) that allows government officials to see where it works and where decisions do not work. In years past, the records of rural clinics have allowed the government to respond quickly to outbreaks of malaria and measles. More importantly, before this government effort had data on birth and death of children in rural Ethiopia, but now seeks this information carefully.
Healthcare workers provide most services at these centers, although often home visits for pregnant women and sick people. Workers shall ensure that every home has mesh bed to allow the family to protect themselves from malaria, toiletries, first aid instructions and access to other basic health practices. All these interventions are very simple, but the effect on people’s lives recorded in the country was dramatic.
I offer the example of a young mother in Dalocha. Sebsebila Nassir was born in 1990, when 20% of Ethiopian children dying before the age of 5 years. Two of the six brothers died. After being open a medical center in Dalocha, her life began to change. Last year, when Sebsebila conceived, has had regular checkups. On November 28, Sebsebila went to a medical center where the midwife stood by her bed during the seven hours of labor. Immediately after birth, a medical worker baby vaccinated against polio and tuberculosis.
According to Ethiopian habits, parents wait a few weeks before her baby naming, because many die during this period. When the first daughter was born 3 years ago Sebsebila she followed tradition and gave a name only after a month. Second birth, Sebsebila had more confidence in her daughter’s chances of survival and gave him the name “Amira” - “princess” in Arabic - the day it was born. Sebsebila not alone - many parents today have the same confidence Ethiopians.
Ethiopia has reduced infant mortality by 60% from 1990 to today, with the potential to meet the MDG target of reducing child mortality by 66% by 2015. Although not all the planet will be able to meet the MDG goals, we did great progress. Number of children who died before he was 5 years decreased from 6.9 million in 2011, compared to 12 million in 1990, despite the fact that the population has risen.
Another success story is due to improved measurement polio. Since 1988, worldwide organizations dedicated to health (along with many countries) has set a goal of eradicating polio, which resulted in focusing politicians and financing large-scale immunization campaigns. By 2000, the virus had been almost exterminated, today there are fewer than 1,000 cases worldwide.
Remove the remaining cases of polio is the most difficult part of this effort. To combat the spread of infections, health workers need to vaccinate nearly all children younger than 5 years in countries affected by polio. Today, polio still exist in only three countries: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Four years ago I visited northern Nigeria to understand why it is so difficult to eradicate this disease. We observed due to the failure of routine medical services: less than half of children younger than 5 years were vaccinated on time. A big problem was that many small villages in the region were drawn on hand-drawn maps used by medical teams vaccine, maps villages document positioning and number of children living there.
To solve this problem, workers have gone through all high-risk areas in the north of the country, which allowed them to add another 3,000 on the list communities immunization campaigns. The program also uses high-resolution satellite images to create detailed maps. As a result, program managers can now assign a vaccination effectively.
Moreover, currently conducting a pilot program that vaccination use mobile application with GPS. At the end of the day, vaccination route is low, so that managers know where they went vaccination and compare the way done with the route set. This allows that if an area has not been accessed, it is covered later.
I think these types of measurement systems will allow us to finish this project and eradicate polio within the next six years. These systems can be used also to expand routine vaccinations and provide other medical services, which means that the campaign to eradicate polio will have positive consequences after the disease will be eliminated.
Moreover, education is another area in which the measurement result in significant improvements.
In October, I stayed with my wife Melinda among dozens of students of class 12th of Eagle Valley High School in Vail, Colorado. Professor Mary Ann Stavney explain students how to write narrative nonfiction. She discusses with students walk among them and engage in discussion. I could see why Mary Ann is an exceptional teacher, award given to the best teachers in the school, which plays an important role in teacher evaluation system in Eagle County.
Teacher Stavney’s efforts are supported by our Foundation project for three years and aims to develop a better system of evaluation and feedback for teachers. With guidance provided by 3,000 teachers, the project highlighted several measures that schools can take to analyze teacher performance, including grades obtained from testing, surveying students and their evaluation by specialists. Throughout the school year, all 470 teachers from Eagle County are assessed three times and are observed in the classroom for at least 9 times of exceptional teachers, the school principal and colleagues bearing the title of “master teachers”.
Evaluation system used in the Eagle district is used to provide the teacher a note, and specific feedback that would allow to improve performance and develop their strengths. In addition to face-to-face training, mentors and master teachers lead weekly group sessions in which teachers work together to share their skills. Teachers can get salary increases and bonuses based on classroom observations and from student achievements.
Despite budgetary difficulties, Eagle County has maintained this rating system, so that the grades obtained by students in assessments increased in the last five years.
I think the most important change we can make in education is to create such feedback systems for teachers.
Also, there are many other areas where the ability to measure can improve people’s lives.
In poor countries, we need better methods by which to measure the effectiveness of many healthcare workers. These crucial element that allows people who have the greatest need for vaccines and education to obtain these services. Therefore, we must assess how well trained, if they come to work and how metrics to help them do their jobs better.
The U.S. should measure the value added by the university. At the moment, university rankings focus on what you enter - the quality and outcomes of students accepted into the institution - and on subjective criteria such as “reputation”.
In agriculture, the establishment of global targets productivity would help countries to focus on a very important area, currently neglected: the production efficiency of small farmers hundreds of millions living in poverty. Achieving this goal would be a big step towards reducing poverty, and a method by which we can achieve is to publish charts that reveal how countries, donors and other institutions help farmers.
If I had a magic wand, I’d like to get a method to measure the potential of how children are affected by factors such as diseases, infections, malnutrition and tasks problem - I want to know how these issues affect their ability to learn and to contribute to society. We measure these dependencies could allow to better understand these factors and we can manage.
Lives of the poorest people in the world have improved rapidly over the last 15 years, faster than ever before in human history. I am optimistic that we will tear down the peak in the next 15 years. Process that I described - setting clear goals, measuring results and use these measurements to refine our methods - we will help provide tools and services to all persons who will benefit from them, whether it’s U.S. students and mothers in Africa. Following the footsteps of the steam engine a long time ago, thanks measurement, progress is not “condemned to be rare and irregular.” In fact, we can do a natural thing. “