On stage at the Social Good Summit in New York City Monday, Melinda Gates kicked off her talk with a direct challenge to today's technologists.
"It's almost a cliche to say people are always on their cell phones. That's where they're connecting. But what I keep coming back to is a deeper question, a moral question: are we connecting on behalf of changing the world for everyone?" she asked, before continuing, "We're not there yet."
This year's Social Good Summit, which hosts some of the world's top philanthropists and business leaders, is focused on "how to use the digital tools of today to plan for the future." It's Gates' hope to see more technology that will connect people with the greatest needs to the wealth of technology that people living in developed worlds take for granted.
"Most people aren't really moved by statistics. Even for me personally it wasnt until I took my first trip to meet the families behind those statistics that I realized their hopes and aspirations and dreams aren't that different from ours," she says. "It's just they often don't have the right tools to realize those dreams."
Gates highlighted some promising technology she's seen to address big global problems. The Circle of 6 app, for instance, is intended to stem violence against women, by enabling women in dozens of countries to immediately alert six people of their GPS location if they're in danger. Gates also praised Shamba Shape-up, an organization that enables some 10 million Kenyan farmers to get advice and have conversations via text with agronomy experts.
She also used the opportunity to plug a platform called +SocialGood, a global network intended to connect innovators around the world. Through local events and an online platform, they're encouraged to share their expertise about solving global problems, like child and maternal mortality rates in the developing world.
"Next year 95 percent of the global population will have access to cell phone subscriptions, and 40 percent of people are online, but how do we use those connections to create actions?" she asked.
"With technology, we can connect people to these stories and get people to move to action. That's my hope."