PALO ALTO, Calif.--Microsoft may be known for PowerPoint, but Bill Gates' college tour has just one slide in it.
In his effort to convince students to devote more time and energy to society's big problems, Gates points to one chart--the decline in death rates of children during the past 50 years. In 1960, roughly 20 million kids younger than five died each year, a figure that has dropped to less than 9 million due in large part to vaccines.
Already Gates said, more people are focusing on global health, something he said is making a difference.
"I think there is a trend in this direction," Gates said. "It is better today than it was 10 years ago."
But Gates said more work is needed on health, not to mention education and other big global issues.
"My view is we could do a lot better on this and it would make a huge difference," Gates said Monday during the second stop on his three-day college speaking tour. "We want as much energy, as much work, as much excitement applied to those things as we could possibly get."
Gates' speech echoed many of the topics he covered earlier in the day when he kicked off the tour with a speech at the University of California, Berkeley. While there, Gates also toured a biology lab that focuses on bacteria research that could have applications for the science of vaccine development.
In the question-and-answer session, Gates was asked whether it was just low pay that caused few people go into the public sector. Gates said it isn't just about lower salaries. He said that getting ideas adopted is also a challenge, noting that just having a good idea on how to improve, say public high schools, isn't enough.
"It's a formidable barrier," he said.
Gates said there is a role for both local volunteers and those that devote their careers to science.
"There's a lot to be said for your initial engagement in nonprofit things being local, very hands-on, not science-based activity," he said. "On the other side, we need hard-core science. We need to understand immunology (better). We need more vaccines...We need new seeds that are dramatically more efficient."
Gates was also asked about the future of mobile computing and the iPad specifically.
He didn't take on the question head-on but instead talked about the role that mobile computing can have in taking education digital and, over time, eliminating textbooks. Most of the work of the foundation, he said, focuses on making courseware broadly accessible on the Internet.
Gates did say that it was great that there were lots of companies moving things forward, a list that he said included both Microsoft and Apple.