Bill Gates Annual Letter: Applying Simple Business to Worldwide Problems

January 31, 2013 BY Devi R. Thomas

Bill Gates’ annual letter this year proves once again that he is determined to bettering the world around us. We face so many global challenges, and he has used his success in the business world to inspire the philanthropist in all of us and help to find innovative solutions for the most pressing issues we face. Yesterday, Mr. Gates released his 2013 annual letter, where he applied business strategies to emphasize the importance of finding global solutions whose effectiveness and impact we can measure—solutions like vaccines.

In a time where governments have limited funding for humanitarian projects and our wallets are tight, every dollar we spend must have a direct impact. Mr. Gates emphasizes that we need to set ambitious goals as a global community and then do what we can, being mindful of resources, to meet those goals.

One of the most inspiring examples in the letter is the head of UNICEF in the 1980s, Jim Grant. Mr. Grant set a goal of immunizing 80 percent of the world’s children. To help reach this monumental goal, he built a system that focused on communities that needed the most support. Thanks to this plan, immunization coverage improved from 17 percent in 1980 to 75 percent in 1990! When we measure our progress, we see both our successes and the ways that we can do even better.

As the founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a Shot@Life partner, Bill Gates knows that vaccines are both easy to measure and effective. Polio eradication remains a top priority for the Gates Foundation reaffirming the importance of eradicating polio from our world and suggesting new ways to use technology to track our childhood immunization progress. Polio is a horrible and crippling disease, but measures of progress, like India’s recent 2-year anniversary from any new cases of the disease, help us see how far we’ve come.

A supporter of innovation, Mr. Gates also announced the winner of this year’s Gates Vaccine Innovation Award in his letter. This year's recipient is Margarida Matsine, a field officer for Village Reach, a nonprofit working to improve health care in Mozambique. She has been instrumental in overhauling the vaccine logistics system by removing numerous obstacles that prevent children from getting immunized.

Bill Gates’ letter reminds us of the importance of choosing strategies and solutions that we can measure and visualize their effect. With that advice, it’s obvious; vaccines are one of the best tools we have for improving the lives of children around the world. We can see their effectiveness in the smiling faces of our children.

Read the full letter here. And, if you want to hear about Bill’s first date with his wife Melinda and his commitment to eradicating polio, check out his interview on the Today Show!

P.S. This year, Bill Gates wants to hear from you. What goals do you think we should set to help improve the world for the next generation? What's your hope for 2030? Learn more at


POSTED IN: Global Health


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