Put people first, execs say

Published in Board Talk, Philippine Daily Inquirer, October 17, 2016

William Henry ‘Bill’ Gates, co-founder of Microsoft; Mark Elliot Zuckerberg, co-founder of social networking site Facebook; and Christopher Isaac ‘Biz’ Stone, co-founder of Twitter, all built their empire on advances in technology.

Yet all three acknowledge that humanity will always reign supreme.

Invited to speak recently before the inaugural group of the Strategic Marketing Programme at the SAID Business School’s Executive Education cluster of the Oxford University in London where this writer was a student, Biz Stone, at the Nelson Mandela Lecture Theatre, emphasized that ‘technology is omnipresent and should be used to amplify the best traits of humanity”.

Stone and his wife Livia are founders of the Biz and Livia Stone Foundation. It is involved in causes that include poverty, health, education, animal welfare and environmentalism in aid of improving humanity’s quality of life. Stone is co-founder and presently CEO of search engine askJelly.com where netizens get answers to their questions from real people.

Gates co-founded Microsoft, today’s largest computer software company. Gates was on several occasions ranked by Forbes as the world’s wealthiest. Gates’ personal net worth as of September 2016 is US$81.7Billion.

Gates meanwhile said in a 2013 exclusive interview with Financial Times, he acknowledged though that ‘while technology is amazing it does not go down to the people most in need”.

Thus in 2000, Bill and Melinda Gates launched The BMGF, popularly known as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation’s vision is to globally enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty and in the United States in particular, expand educational opportunities and access to information technology.

In June 2006, Gates began his full time work at the BMGF leaving Microsoft.

In one interview, Gates explains “Money has no utility to me beyond a certain point. Its utility is entirely in building an organization and getting the resources out to the poorest in the world.”

As of October 2014, Bill and Melinda Gates have donated $30.2B, almost 37% of their wealth to various charitable causes.

The Zuckerbergs are involved in similar fields.

Following the birth of his daughter, Maxima Chan Zuckerberg on December 1, 2015, Mark and Priscilla Chan Zuckerberg announced the creation of the Chan Zuckerberg initiative (CZI).

The CZI on September 21, 2016 announced a commitment to invest $3Bil over the next decade toward disease prevention. The CZI seeded $600Mil in a new research facility called the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub in San Francisco.

The objective is to develop tools to treat the world’s biggest killers namely heart disease, cancer, infectious diseases and neurological diseases.

In a video explaining the CZI initiative, Zuckerberg said in reference to his child Max, “Having this child has made us think about all of the things that should be improved in the world for her whole generation. The only way that we can reach our full human potential is if we are able to unlock the gifts of every person around the world.”

Technology, no matter how powerful it seems, is merely a tool.

Whether it does good or evil depends on how companies and individuals use it. Hopefully, more will use it for good.

The writer is Chief Brand Strategist of MKS Marketing Consulting and is an alumna of Oxford University’s SAID Graduate School of Business Strategic Leadership Executive Education and Stanford Graduate School of Business Strategic Marketing Executive Education. De Asis is also an alumna of the Ateneo Graduate School of Business and a PhD graduate of the De La Salle Graduate School, Taft Campus. Reach the author who is also a member of the Global Strategic Consulting Network at karenvdeasis@gmail.com

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