“The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. And their lives will improve more than anyone else’s,” say Bill and Melinda Gates in their latest annual letter outlining their “big bets” for the future.

Fifteen years ago the Gates Foundation had been set up to back innovative work in health and education to “help dramatically reduce inequity”.

“The progress we’ve seen so far is very exciting—so exciting that we are doubling down on the bet we made 15 years ago, and picking ambitious goals for what’s possible 15 years from now,” the letter released in the US on Thursday said.

Some people may have thought Gates and Paul Allen were “nuts” to have bet on software and personal computers in the past. “But the bet turned out well,” says Gates outlining more for the future that may be viewed as “irrational”.

There will be opportunities to get an education, eat nutritious food, and benefit from mobile banking. And these breakthroughs will be driven by innovation in technology—ranging from new vaccines and hardier crops to much cheaper smartphones and tablets—and by innovations that help deliver those things to more people, the letter says.

India evidence

Girindre Beeharry, the Foundation’s India-head says there is evidence in India to show that the basic contention made by Gates in the letter is “not a crazy notion”.

Despite the scepticism, there is data that proves that things are getting better and faster, he told Business Line. India’s success with tackling polio, remaining polio-free for the fourth year on a trot and the fact that the country was losing two million less children below five years, are some indicators, he points out. In 1990, 3.3 million children died below five years, and now it is about 1.34 million.

Simultaneously, there are programmes happening in the country that are also paving the way for changes, he says, referring to initiatives on Kala-azar (a parasitic killer disease), maternal and neo-natal projects. It is not just direct health projects but those outside its ambit, like the sanitation programmes that will have an impact on health, he said. This will further be buoyed by vaccine-driven initiatives targeting diarrhoea and pneumonia, he observes.

On the impact the annual Gates letter exercise has for shareholders and anyone who accesses it, Beeharry explains, it helps focus attention on the goodwork done and highlights what more needs to get done for policymakers and corporates with deep pockets who want to put their money on meaningful projects.

In the letter, Bill and Melinda say, “We’re putting our credibility, time, and money behind this bet—and asking others to join us—because we think there has never been a better time to accelerate progress and have a big impact around the world.”