Bill Gates gives India high marks for its ‘culture of innovation’

If you’re wondering whether development aid programs really do any good, or if you doubt that government spending on things like health can really make a difference, then you should go to India, as I did again just recently.

India’s progress over the past 20 years has been quite phenomenal. It deserves recognition especially now, as rich countries consider whether to continue investing in global development assistance despite all the economic problems they face at home.

Over the past 20 years, India has really emerged as a dynamic, influential country. It’s been one of the world’s fastest growing major economies, and it’s playing an increasingly important role in world affairs, including as a member of the G20 and the BRICS group of newly industrialized nations.

The current situation in India is quite hopeful. The country has a lot of talented people. The universities are improving. Government spending is going up because of the nation’s economic strength. Some reforms are needed, and that’s progressing, gradually. India represents all the challenges you face when you have lots of people living in poverty. And so India can contribute to how we solve problems globally.

A lot of progress has come from the nation’s culture of innovation, which has produced some really original and creative solutions. During my recent visit, I had a chance to see the latest progress on things that matter a lot to us: on eradicating polio and curtailing the spread of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, for example. And I saw how India is emerging as a model and increasingly a catalyst for improvement in other developing countries.

For example, India has become a world leader in the development of high-quality, low-cost vaccines and other bio-pharmaceuticals, which are playing a huge role in improving health not only in south Asia but also in Africa and elsewhere. It’s now been more than a year since the last new case of polio was reported in India. In February, India was officially removed from the list of polio-endemic countries.

India’s experience carries lessons for developing and newly industrialized countries around the world. It proves that success can be achieved – against polio and other diseases, as well – even in the most challenging circumstances.

Important leadership has been provided by the national government, which has increased funding for HIV/AIDS and established a national strategic plan that includes community-led HIV prevention. The National AIDS Control Organization has done great work. NACO and Avahan have contributed to a 50-percent reduction in the incidence of India is using its leadership in information technology, which could be a big help to government and private health providers in monitoring the spread of the disease, improving the efficiency of the TB control program and in treating patients.

During my recent India trip, I was very glad to see the evolution and strengthening of our partnerships with government. I spoke with many government leaders including the dynamic chief ministers of two states, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which are among the poorest in the country. I was very impressed with the forward strides they’re making. The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav, is under 40, the state’s youngest chief minister ever. In Bihar, chief minister Nitish Kumar has helped drive remarkable improvements in farm productivity and is taking steps toward big improvements in health.

This pattern has been repeated across the country over the past several decades. And as a result, aid has steadily become a smaller and smaller portion of the national economy. This is the good that can happen when aid donors and governments work hand in hand.