Time to fix our priorities

Bill Gates came wearing two hats to the Tech Museum Awards on Nov. 15: that of chairman of Microsoft, and that of co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He was on hand to receive the James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian award, which honors individuals whose broad vision and leadership are helping to address humanity’s greatest challenges. In his keynote address, he reminded listeners that the goal in broadening use of technology in the developing world is not to elevate technology, it’s to meet human needs—and that market forces alone will not ensure that the necessary work is undertaken, let alone accomplished.

“Left to themselves,” Gates said, “market forces create a world, which is the situation today, where over 90 percent of the money spent on health research is spent on those who are the healthiest.” As an example, he cited $1 billion annually spent on combating baldness. “That’s great for some people,” he said, “but perhaps it should get behind malaria in terms of its priority.”

The Tech Awards seek to recognize innovators from around the world who are applying technology to benefit humanity. This year marked the awards’ sixth anniversary, and Gates’ appearance drew the largest crowd ever to the gala event

Twenty-five laureates are named in five categories: Environment, Economic Development, Education, Health, and Equality. Laureates honored in 2006 were selected from entries received from 98 countries by Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society. Multiple projects were submitted to address the issues of water shortages in developing countries; technologies for assisted living; and the environmental and economic challenges facing impoverished African and South American communities. KCS & SBS 

post-image Gates shares a new vision for health research. Photo: Charlotte Fiorito
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