Bill Gates: Digital Currency Could Help Poor in Africa

The Microsoft co-founder also discussed the NSA, his investment in the nuclear company TerraPower, and cloud computing during his Reddit "Ask Me Anything."

by / February 10, 2014
In a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session Monday, Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates said that over the next five years, digital currency will catch on in India and Africa and help the poor. Flickr/OnInnovation

Bill Gates took to Reddit on Monday for his second “Ask Me Anything” (AMA), just one week after Microsoft announced the appointment of CEO Satya Nadella. The Microsoft Co-Founder used his time in the AMA to (again) voice his approval of the company’s direction toward cloud services that Nadella’s elevation represents. 

“I am excited about how the cloud and new devices can help us communicate and collaborate in new ways,” Gates wrote. “The [new operating system] won’t just be on one device and the information won’t just be files … I was thrilled Satya asked me to pitch in to make sure Microsoft is ambitious with its innovation.” 

Gates fielded questions about a host of topics, including digital currency systems like Bitcoin. Gates expressed his belief that it could ultimately improve the lives of the poor in places like India and Africa. 

“In Kenya, M-pesa (a digital money transfer service offered by telecom giant Vodaphone) is being used for almost half of all transactions,” Gates wrote. “Digital money has low transaction costs, which is great for the poor because they need to do financial transactions with small amounts of money. Over the next five years I think digital money will catch on in India and parts of Africa and help the poorest a lot.”

Gates also wrote that he believes new nuclear power services need to be brought into the market.

“We need low cost energy that is totally reliable,” Gates wrote. “Most renewables will require storage, which is expensive to do. Nuclear will make a contribution if we can make it safer, cheaper and deal with waste better.”

Gates is one of the largest investors in the firm TerraPower, a Seattle-based company working to develop new methods to produce nuclear energy. 

Gates also waded into the debate on NSA spying. He called it a “complex issue.”

“Privacy will be increasingly important as cameras and GPS sensors are gathering information to try and be helpful,” Gates wrote. “We need to have trust in the way information is protected and gathered.”

But, he added: “I do think terrorism with biological or nuclear weapons is something we want to minimize the chance of.”