Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates says Asia is fast catching up to the West in technology training and research, and he predicts that some of the next major technological advances will be coming from the region. Gates was speaking at the annual Boao Forum, which opened Saturday in Southern China with more than 1,400 leaders of government, business and academia discussing innovation and sustainable development. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.
Bill Gates says that while opportunities were once based on what was available in the country of a person's birth, the personal computer and the Internet have lowered barriers to the gathering of knowledge and education.
Gates told the opening session of the Boao forum Saturday that the quality of scientific education and research in countries like China have become world-class, and he predicted that innovation will increasingly be originating in Asian countries.
"Not only is Asia benefiting from the use of technology, Asia will be a major source of the breakthroughs and advances in technology," said Mr. Gates.
Gates was addressing the annual two-day Boao Forum, which is being held on southern China's Hainan Island. The participants include the likes of Philippine President Gloria Arroyo and Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
Gates says Microsoft's research centers in Asia have produced some of the most innovative work in the world, and the company will soon more than double the number of researchers hired in Beijing and Shanghai.
However, he says providing equal access for all people to information technology, and in particular to the Internet, remains a challenge. He says governments and charities need to work for equal Internet access for the poor so they will benefit as well.
"As powerful as market incentives are, we often need to complement them with government action and philanthropy and special incentives to make sure the benefits are very widespread," he added.
Dignitaries at the forum stressed the need for more balanced and less-polluting economic development in Asia.
Wu Bangguo, the chairman of the Chinese parliament's Standing Committee, said industrialized nations needed to do more to help developing nations in Asia fight poverty and environmental degradation. He said these issues did not just affect the region, but the entire world.