Pushing forward and giving back


Computing innovations promise to "blow open communication," Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates told an audience of more than 400 students who gathered at the Graduate School of Business on Wednesday. Many more watched Gates's talk, “Bill Gates Unplugged: On Software, Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Giving Back,” on video simulcast at locations across campus.

In particular, Gates said new ways of controlling computers will combine with Web-based software to give users greater access to information. "We don't even realize how information-deprived we are," Gates said, noting that computer files and programs will soon be accessible by touch- and voice-controlled mobile devices.

"With all these rapid innovations," Gates said, "we should really not just focus on what these mean for the richest." He spoke of his growing involvement in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as he transitions out of full-time work at Microsoft. The foundation aims to make technological advances "relevant" to people worldwide who lack access to electricity, schools, and health care, Gates said. In the United States, the foundation has pledged $6 million to the University of Chicago's Center for Urban School Improvement to help establish model high schools across Chicago.

During a question-and-answer session, many students expressed interest in Gates's philanthropic work, asking about his foundation's activities in eradicating malaria and boosting educational opportunities. Others asked how Microsoft could provide software to better meet the needs of University researchers. Ultimately, one student asked Gates to name his most difficult moment. While Gates acknowledged that he is "not in a position to complain," he discussed his decision to drop out of Harvard College in 1975 to establish Microsoft.

Chicago was Gates's third stop this week in a five-campus tour that also includes Stanford University, University of Texas at Austin, University of Waterloo, and Carnegie Mellon University.

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photos: Bill Gates addresses University students at the GSB on Wednesday.

Photos courtesy Dan Dry

February 22, 2008