In India, Bill Gates discusses immigration, health care, Facebook

Mustafa Quraishi/AP
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates speaks at a function organized by the National Association of Software and Services Companies in New Delhi, India, on Friday.

Back in the day, Bill Gates signed up for a Facebook page. He liked the idea of the social networking site – it would provide him a way to connect with his employees and his friends. But the reality turned out to be more than a little problematic.

Every day, “ten thousand people tried to be my friend," the chairman of Microsoft said in a speech today in India, according to the New York Times. Gates spent so much trying to figure out if he knew these potential friends, that eventually, he had to shut down his profile.

Speaking at a meeting organized by the National Association of Software and Services Company, or NASSCOM, Gates held forth on a variety of topics: the woes of being a billionaire celebrity on Facebook, public policy, the recession – a "big deal," Gates noted – heath care, cell phone technology, and immigration laws.

On this last topic, Gates was at his most forceful. He noted that American immigration policy could become significantly more difficult to navigate – a potential problem for talented tech workers looking for work in the US. "The US Congress is very tough on immigration. But why not make an exception for smart people?" Gates said.

At other points during his speech, Gates suggested that the US had botched an opportunity to simplify health care by centralizing and digitizing patient data. The government needs to "come up with a better model for health care," he said.

Gates also spoke at length on India’s proposal to assign identity cards to its 1.2 billion people, saying that he hopes Microsoft can be a part of the project. Identity cards would help improve the speed and efficacy of social services, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has argued.

“I’ll certainly commit Microsoft wants to be a partner,” Gates said of the plan. “I am fascinated to hear how that is shaping up.”


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