The use of technology coupled with bold decisions can help India leapfrog into inclusive growth and improve the quality of health and education, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has said. Appreciating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Digital India’ campaign along with the socio-economic reforms, Gates said that digitisation can help monitor quality and eventually help the education system. The idea is “if you take care of their health, including nutrition and you improve the education system… then the promise for India is really unbelievable,” Gates told PTI in an interview. “Absolutely yes,” Gates said when asked if digitisation and modern technologies would help India achieve the goals of an ideal society as being articulated by top Indian leaders’ post-independence.
“The idea of growing up is having very high survival rates, growing up without malnutrition, giving birth without the mother’s life being at risk; the next 20-25 years India will make a lot of progress on these things,” said Gates, who now is involved in major philanthropic activities globally as head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “It’s not the only thing… it will help with the gender imbalance that we see,” Gates said. He said by driving innovation and better measurement one could actually accelerate the process of growth. “I do think that for a lot of these issues, India is very much on the cutting edge. For a lot of things, we do, we work with partners in India and the ones that are most successful are Aadhaar linked things related things,” Gates said. “Then we looked at how the countries that are in earlier stage of development can benefit. So a lot of these ideas will have a positive impact in Africa over time,” he said.
Referring to India’s demographic profile, Gates described it as a young country. He was highly appreciative of the steps being taken by Prime Minister Modi. “Certainly, some of the things he’s taken on as priorities, like financial inclusion, improvements in sanitation, improving the vaccine system and adding new vaccines. I think that’s really good,” Gates said. Gates said he has had some interactions with Modi, even independent of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “Because he’s been a leader on some climate change issues. He came to the Paris event and talked about the need for innovation and actually coined the term mission innovation that over 30 countries have signed up to about increasing R&D,” he said.
Gates, while responding to a question, said that a critical mass of digital accounts at the time of demonetisation would have made things easier for Indians in the immediate aftermath of demonetisation. “Well, the idea that over time a lot of the financial transactions will be done digitally instead of using hard currency, I think that’s a good trend, both for efficiency and visibility,” said.