An Hour With Bill Gates

Last Thursday I was invited to an intimate session at the Royal Institute hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.  The foundation had invited representatives from leading healthcare charities and governing bodies. The title of the session was “Making The Case For Global Health” and it was fascinating to hear the macro view of one of my business heroes, William Henry Gates III.

The invite had come from Nancy Durrell McKenna and Erica Belanger of Safe Hands For Mothers who, for the last 15 years have been on a mission to educate on the topics of sexual and reproductive health and rights, primarily in Sub Saharan Africa.  We at Say It Now have been talking to them about using digital messaging tools (chat bots) to help amplify the reach of their work.

The rapid rise of smartphone penetration and network technology in Africa is opening up huge opportunities to reach ever larger groups of people.  Where the delivery of basic education carries the power to positively impact many lives we believe a mobile (or chat bot) first approach can be transformational and are thus heavily invested in the area.

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And then Bill Gates took to the stage.  He’s a well spoken and incredibly articulate man and as you would expect, very metrics driven.  He ran through some top level statistics showing the progress humankind has made over the past 20 years to improve basic living standards and you can’t argue with the numbers.   It was an update of human endeavor in no small part spurred on by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and call to arms including a lot of data from Bill Gate’s favorite infographic:

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I looked past the fact that the presentation Bill was running through was obviously not created on MS PowerPoint – if it was, his slide wrangling skills are 11.   I was amused at his take on data and he openly said that data doesn’t affect most people on an emotional level. He knew that in an alternate presentation he could focus on the story of one child using images and video, form a connection and have us weeping.  He chooses data instead as he believes it is the only way to get organisations, and countries bought into the scale of the challenges to overcome and the achievements to date.

I very much appreciated the super logical world view pointing out the massive advances that have been made with immunisation against diseases like Polio which they were expecting to eradicate by 2030.  Also the great steps made to reduce poverty, getting the poorest countries to become self sustaining and away from any reliance on foreign aid, great job with China.

I found the most interesting macro view in looking beyond transmittable diseases and onto Non Communicable Diseases (NCD’s).  These diseases, not transmitted person to person are often caused by lifestyle choices, obesity, smoking alcohol etc.  and have sometimes been referred to as “diseases of the rich”.  With an ever more self-sustaining world these types of diseases pose the largest threat to humans moving forward.  The thought came back that basic education and messaging through chat bots could well be a useful educational tool for us all.

In summary it was great to see someone who has been #winning the game of life so much and believed that there is much more humanity can do.  It was really inspirational to understand that you can achieve so much if only you keep to the metrics and don’t get distracted by the emotive images…


A couple of weeks after the event the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation shared one of the videos they shared at the event, it pulls on a number of the themes mentioned above, see below and we’d urge you to share on your channels, quoting #ProgressIsPossible where appropriate

About the author:

Charles Cadbury believes that everyone should be able to communicate seamlessly with the brands they love and is CEO and Co-Founder of Say It Now, a specialist technology company that helps brands take advantage of opportunities created by consumers shifting to conversational channels.