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AS IT IS - Bill Gates: Philanthropy Needs New Ideas

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Bill Gates speaking at a philanthropy event.
Bill Gates speaking at a philanthropy event.

American Bill Gates is known around the world as the founder and former chairman of Microsoft Corporation. He now serves as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The private foundation is working to end deadly diseases and poverty.

Recently, Bill Gates spoke about the importance of philanthropy – the custom of giving time and money to help other people. He says philanthropy depends on innovation, or new ideas, for best results.

Mr. Gates spoke during a visit to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. He said his philanthropic work centers on problems that governments cannot solve effectively.

"There are things in terms of trying out social programs in innovative ways that government is just, because of the way job incentives work, they are not going to try out news designs like philanthropy can, and they are not bring to have volunteer hours coming in to leverage their resources like philanthropy can."

Bill Gates said charitable giving is very important in America. One example is the university system. He said universities produce highly trained professionals who then give financial support to universities. He also said that, in the United States, privately funded organizations create inventions that government cannot.

He also spoke about the March of Dimes Foundation and its campaign to end polio. The foundation, he said, has paid for the development of two polio vaccines. Medical researcher Jonas Salk developed the first vaccine. Albert Sabin later created an oral vaccine. At the event, Mr. Gates held up one of the vaccines to show how small a treatment is.

"This is the oral polio vaccine. That's 10 doses and this thing costs $1.30 or 13 cents per kid."

In 2012, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave away $3.4 billion dollars. The money went to support health research, education and development programs in the United States and around the world.

But Mr. Gates noted that philanthropy cannot provide the wider improvements in areas such as public health, education, and employment. Governments, he said, were designed to serve the whole population.

"When you want to give every child in America a good education, or make sure they are not starving, that's got to be government because philanthropy isn't there day in and day out serving the entire population. It's just not the scale or the design to do that."

Philanthropy, Bill Gates said, needs research and innovation to seek answers to society's problems. But it is government's part to work for a better society.

I'm Jonathan Evans in Washington.

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