The Road Ahead: Innovating Together in
By Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft Corporation
April 25, 2003 12:00 AM PT
Tsinghua University, Beijing China ,
April 19, 2007
Honorable President Gu,
Faculty and students of Tsinghua University,
I'm very honored to be here receiving this degree from Tsinghua, which is one of the top universities in the world. Throughout its 96 years, it not only produced outstanding scientists but also industry and government leaders.
When I visited here in 1997 – 10 years ago – I was very impressed by the talent, the
enthusiasm and the creativity of the students that I met at Tsinghua. And it inspired me to support Microsoft in creating a research lab here in Beijing.
That research lab has gone on to incredible success, led by Harry Shum and joined by top university graduates from this school and others. It's made huge contributions to Microsoft. And if you look at various conferences getting together to discuss the state-of-the-art issues, the researchers from this lab are making huge contributions. Or if you look at the products, even the recent Windows Vista or Office 2007, we have substantial innovations in those products.
This is an incredible time to be a student at this University. The frontiers of science, including computer science, have never been nearer. The opportunity to improve people's lives in every way has never been stronger.
We've really just scratched the surface of the digital revolution. Yes, we have about a billion personal computers that are connected up to the Internet. And we've already
started to transform the way people, I think, are studying information and sharing information. But there are so much more that we can do.
The exponential improvement in not only the processor transistors but also what we have in storage or optic fiber bandwidth give us an opportunity to apply software that can work in a far more powerful way.
For example, when we think about TV. Today it's just a passive, non-interactive situation, but that's in the process of changing: changing so that you can get any show that you want on the Internet, changing so that it can be interactive so that you can learn as you go home, changing so that the flexibility even to talk and collaborate with others will be part of that experience.
If you think about product design – and products are going to be designed digitally. I
spent several hours yesterday at the Agricultural Rice Institute talking with the experts there about how they are using software technology to sequence different rice varieties. And they're optimistic that they can come up with new varieties that will require less fertilizer, less water and yet increase the yield. And it's advances like that that really reach out and change the lives not just of those of us who work in technology but people everywhere.
The advances in medicine are dependent on software, software that can manage the databases and understand the complex systems. I'm very optimistic that we can make big breakthroughs based on what software will provide.
And if you think about your mobile phone going from being just a voice device to being something that can be a "digital wallet", that can show you maps and you'll be able to talk to it and ask for information and it will go out to the Internet and find the things that you're interested in.
In terms of learning, by creating what we call the "student tablet" that will be very inexpensive and the size of a tablet but wirelessly connected to the Internet and able to record your voice or recognize your ink handwriting and yet provide learning experiences that are far more effective – and in fact bringing together all of the world's
knowledge on the Internet in a very attractive form. Teachers will be able to see the world's best lectures, and they'll be able to see the best materials and for the first time start to share with each other. And so for anyone who wants to learn or wants to teach, it will be a very, very different world.
We certainly have some very tough and interesting problems that I know the students here will be making breakthroughs in. Writing software that's reliable, that's totally secure, software that can handle parallel execution, software that's very easy to use and software that can solve some very tough problems, for example problems of artificial intelligence that we've already spent many decades working on. And so this is an amazing time to be working in the sciences and particularly in computer science.
It's also an amazing time to this country. What's going on in China and the growth of its economy with incredible contributions not just within the country but to the global economy as well – you know, starting to be a very major contributor in all the sciences,
advances in the medical drugs, advances in computer science. China will start to play a very substantial role, and part of that is the investments that have been made in having world-class universities, of which Tsinghua is really the shining example. For Microsoft, we have a commitment to
work with our partners here and make
them successful, to make sure that
there are literally hundreds of software
start-ups that not only sell in the market
here but sell to the entire world.
We also want to make sure that the
digital advances are available to all the
citizens. And so whether it's displaced workers or migrants or people who have disabilities – for example blind people – trying to use the computer, there are these
special programs that we can put together to make sure that software really isn't just for the few but really is about empowering everyone. A good example of that is the 170 Hope Cyber Schools where we provided lots of training.
This commitment to think long-term and this commitment to the future is something that the Chinese Government, this University and Microsoft all share. And so the opportunity of working together on new curriculum, faculty exchange: these have strengthened all three of our institutions.
In the last several years, over 2,000 students from 100 Asian universities have worked at our research center here and we've awarded over 170 fellowships, so it's really become a mixing ground for the most talented people in the region. And of course, the university that has the largest representation has been Tsinghua.
Many more researchers are teaching courses, including the course here called "Hot Topics in Computing Research" that I think is a very novel type of course and I think will be a model for many other universities as well.
Today I get a chance to announce some new program between Microsoft and Tsinghua, which is the "Microsoft Distinguished Visiting Professorship" at Tsinghua. And under this program, our research group will support a world-renowned computer scientist every year to visit the University at Professor Yao's Institute for Theoretical Computer Science. And the first recipient of this – a very impressive recipient – is Professor Frans Kaashoek
And so I hope you get a sense of my optimism – optimism about what software can do
and the interesting breakthroughs we can all make, opportunities to use that – use it for
making businesses more effective, making jobs more interesting, designing far better jobs than ever before but also using it for the handicapped, for education, for outreach so that any student who has an opportunity to connect up to the Internet will have the same type of opportunities as most privileged students.
I know many of the tough problems you're working on today. It's fantastic for me to be here. You may realize that I'm actually getting an honorary degree from Tsinghua before I get an honorary from Harvard – actually just less than two months I'll be at Harvard to
get my first degree from the school that I spent several years at.
So these are amazing times and, you know, I think the intersection of what's going on in China, what's going on with companies like Microsoft to take this long-term approach and the great academic tradition that is exemplified by the excellence of this University, I think, we can all have a very high expectation. And certainly we're committed to working with all of you to realize that potential. Thank you!