NEW DELHI: Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has commended the progress India is making in fields like health, development and climate and said the country is showing what is possible when investment is made in innovation.
He also praised India for its “amazing ability to manufacture lots of safe, effective, and affordable vaccines, some of them supported by the Gates Foundation” and said they saved millions of lives during the COVID-19 pandemic and prevented other diseases around the world.
Gates, who is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday during his trip to India.
Modi tweeted on Saturday, “Delighted to meet Bill Gates and have extensive discussions on key issues. His humility and passion to create a better as well as more sustainable planet are clearly visible.”
Gates said in a write-up, “At a time when the world has so many challenges, it’s inspiring to visit a dynamic and creative place like India.”
Although he didn’t travel much over the past three years because of the pandemic, Gates said he has been in touch with Modi, especially about developing Covid vaccines and investing in India’s health systems.
Besides producing new lifesaving tools, India also excels at delivering them — its public health system has delivered more than 2.2 billion doses of Covid vaccines — Gates said, adding that it created an open-source platform in Co-WIN, which allowed people to schedule billions of vaccine appointments and delivered digital certifications for those who were vaccinated.
“Prime Minister Modi believes that Co-WIN is a model for the world, and I agree,” he said.
He noted that India transferred emergency digital payments to 300 million people, including 200 million women, during the pandemic.
“This was only possible because India has made financial inclusion a priority, investing in a digital ID system (called Aadhaar) and creating innovative platforms for digital banking. It’s a reminder that financial inclusion is a fantastic investment,” he said.
Praising the Gati Shakti programme, Gates said it is a great example of how digital technology can help governments work better. It digitally connects 16 ministries, including rail and roads, so they can integrate their plans for infrastructure projects and accelerate the work of Indian scientists and engineers, he noted.
Gates said he discussed with Modi India’s G20 presidency this year and added that it’s an excellent opportunity to highlight how innovations developed in the country can benefit the world, and to help other countries adopt them.
Supporting these efforts — especially spreading its digital ID and payments systems to other places — is a high priority for the foundation, he said.
Gates said, “My conversation with the Prime Minister left me more optimistic than ever about the progress that India is making in health, development, and climate. The country is showing what’s possible when we invest in innovation. I hope India will continue this progress and share its innovations with the world.”
He also endorsed the government’s push for millets and said they are indeed a super food, as put by Modi. They are also water-efficient and heat tolerant, he said.
“I even got to taste millet khichdi, a type of porridge, at a ‘Godh Bharai’ ceremony — similar to a baby shower — for two women hosted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development,” he said.
His conversation with the prime minister also touched on the issue of climate change.
“We’ve been working together on climate for years — India is a key partner in Mission Innovation, the program launched in 2015 to accelerate work on clean energy technologies. I’m looking forward to getting together with the MI partners during the COP28 Summit this December to accelerate the development of new sources of affordable, reliable clean energy,” he said.
Gates also lauded India’s efforts to eliminate deadly and debilitating diseases like tuberculosis, visceral leishmaniasis and lymphatic filariasis.
“He (PM Modi) told me about a fascinating movement taking shape in India: Communities are ‘adopting’ TB patients to make sure they get the nutrition and care they need. India has used a similar approach with HIV, and it’s been shown to produce lasting results,” Gates said.