It’s that time of year where it seems like every web site has created a list showcasing the highlights of the past year.
I’ve seen lists of the best books of the year, the best sports moments of the year, and the best albums of the year, to name just a few.
But the one that caught my eye is a list that Bill Gates put together, “The Top 6 Good-News Stories of 2015.”
Gates has been doing this for three years, but he notes that the list feels especially important this year. With the notable exception of impressive global cooperation on climate change and energy, the news has been dominated for months by stories about terrorism and war. However, Gates points out that this barrage of negative stories is obscuring the full picture of what’s happening around the world.
Here is his list:
- Africa Went a Year Without Any Polio – Nigeria was the last country in Africa to go a full year without a single new case of locally acquired polio. When the global campaign to eradicate polio began in 1988, polio was endemic in 125 countries. The list is now down to just two: Afghanistan and Pakistan. An amazing accomplishment.
- Neil Tyson Made a Stunning Case for Science – Inspired by the short and eloquent Gettysburg Address, Dr. Tyson’s acceptance speech for the National Academy of Science’s most prestigious award makes his case for ensuring that science plays a big role in policymaking in just 272 words. You can watch a video of his speech here.
- Global Health Innovators Won the Nobel Prize – this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three researchers who developed indispensable tools for fighting diseases of the poor, such as river blindness and malaria.
- SAT Test Prep Is Now Free for Everyone – the company that created the SAT helped the Khan Academy launch a free online learning portal for any student who wants help getting ready for the SAT or PSAT.
- Mobile Banking Exceeds Our Optimistic Projections – Bill and Melinda Gates believe that mobile banking is one of the best tools for helping people lift themselves out of poverty. However, more than two billion people have no access to financial services, severely limiting their ability to borrow, save, invest, and participate in the mainstream economy. But that is changing fast. A new report by scholars at the Brookings Institution shows that many countries are making national commitments to financial inclusion and helping mobile banking reach critical mass. Gates even notes that he has seen digital financial innovation in some developing countries that’s even outpacing what we see in rich countries.
- The Americas Have Eliminated Rubella – This year health officials declared the Americas the first region in the world to be free of endemic rubella, thanks to a massive, 15-year effort to vaccinate men, women, and children everywhere in the hemisphere. Rubella, also known as German measles, leads to death or severe birth defects when women get the disease during pregnancy. This milestone also gives a shot in the arm to efforts to eliminate measles, which is more deadly and more contagious than rubella.
What Gates fails to mention is the key role that he has played in many of these developments through the efforts of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In 2012, Malcolm Gladwell was quoted as saying, “There will be statues of Bill Gates across the Third World. There’s a reasonable shot that — because of his money — we will cure malaria. I firmly believe that 50 years from now, (Gates) will be remembered for his charitable work, no one will even remember what Microsoft is.”
I’d have to agree with most of that statement. Gates will certainly be remembered for his charitable work 50 years from now, but I think the contributions he made to the world of technology will not be forgotten either. Developments such as the free online SAT prep and the rise of mobile banking around the world can all trace their roots back to the dawn of the PC era, one in which he had a major influence.
So thank you to Bill and Melinda Gates for their efforts to make the world a better, kinder, and more just place.