Bill and Melinda Gates have published their annual letter with a look back at 2018, which emphasizes how providing women globally with mobile phones promotes gender equality.
The letter, published Tuesday, refers to last year’s “surprises,” amounting to a “prod to action” and realization “the status quo needs to change.”
The Gateses listed nine items that had an impact last year.
“Some worry us. Others inspire us,” they wrote. “All of them are prodding us to action. We hope they do the same for you, because that’s how the world gets better.”
Providing mobile phones for the poorest women in the world is essential, the Gateses said, in their detailed discussion about technology. Women are nearly 40% less likely to use the Internet than men, they explained, citing a study.
“Women are not only using their mobile phones to access services and opportunities,” Melinda Gates wrote. “They’re using them to change social norms and challenge the power structures that perpetuate gender inequality.”
Melinda Gates went on to say that, for women, “mobile technology creates new opportunities to fight inequity and lift themselves up.”
Their letter also discusses Africa’s median age of 18, the rapid rise of urban population growth that could see the number of buildings around the world double by 2060, and how the use of data can be “sexist” and exclude women. They even discussed a new, modern flush toilet that doesn’t harm the environment and can actually use waste products for good.
Despite all the work needed for the benefit of humanity, the Gateses ended the letter with a final surprise: optimism. They said that they are “absolutely” optimistic about the future because people are working together to solve challenges.
They called on more people to step forward.
“When we’re feeling overwhelmed by negative headlines, we remind ourselves that none of us has the right to sit back and expect that the world is going to keep getting better,” they wrote. “We have a responsibility to do everything we can to push it in that direction.”