Speech 11: Bill Gates -Global Community (Part 3)-

Prepared remarks by Bill Gates, Co-chair and Trustee, on February 23, 2012 (Part 3)
To meet any appropriately ambitious productivity target, we have to think hard about how to start taking advantage of the digital revolution that is multiplying the rate of agriculture innovation. From genomic science to information technology, new discovery is making it possible for us to solve old problems. A huge part of the job we share is bringing today's breakthrough in agricultural science technology to poor farmers.

The existing system wasn't designed to seize these opportunities. It couldn't have been, because the changes we are witnessing were science fiction at the time the agencies were created. But we can take steps to expand our capacity for innovation.

Take seeds. Advances in genomics are fundamentally changing the way breeders do their work. It took researchers 13 years to sequence the human genome. Now they can do it in 27 hours. The cost of sequencing a genome has been literally decimated - reduced more than 10-fold in the past 5 years.
Cassava is a powerful example of what breeding - powered by the revolution in genomics - can do. It's hard to breed cassava. The plant doesn't flower easily. We don't have pure breeding lines. The heritability of key traits is very low. As a result, every breeding cycle takes five years, which means it usually a dull decade to release a new variety.

But scientists can now use computer algorithms to link sequence data from the cassava genome to the performance of cassava plants in the field. This technique was first developed to predict levels of milk production in cows. As DNA sequencing information becomes much cheaper and easier to come by, we can do the same for the agriculture. Breeders in developing countries will be able to predict how a tiny cassava seedling will perform. Consequently, the breeding cycle can be shortened from five years to two years. And it's not just a shorter cycle. It's also higher-quality, because breeders can focus on the most desirable traits early in the process.

In a world where climate change and plant diseases are thretening small farmers who are already planting low-yeilding varieties, these new techniques can be the difference between suffering and self-sufficiency. The only question is, will they benefit the people who need them most?

The digital revolution also applies to farmers' daily work in the fields. Technology as simple as a digital video camera can remake agricultural extension. In India, a group of women farmers started videotaping themselves providing training in farming techniques.

They called the project Digital Green, and they have a plan to reach 1 million farmers across 10000 villages in the next three years.

The video does two things. First, it makes extension much more scalable: The number of people who can watch a video is exponentially larger than the number who can watch a live presentation.
Second, video makes it possible for actual farmers to be extension agents, which has the potential to improve the adoption of improved practices.

The digital revolution also provides opportunities to collect better data. In an age when a satellite can determine instantly how much wheat is in a field, it's a shame to ask countries to use limited resources to send enumerators around with pen, paper, and tape measure. What we get is a lot of wasted time and inaccurate or incomplete data. The digital revolution can improve the quality of critial data while freeing up people to do other high-impact work.

The problem is that the country programs, agencies, and research centers don't have expertise in digital agriculture, and they don't have time to build it from scratch. The real expertise lies with private sector companies, and with rapidly growing countries like Brazil and China where the agricultural sector is booming.

One of the most promising global trends of the past several decades has been the diffusion of innovation. More people in more places are coming up with promising ideas for improving the world. Many recent advances in plant science, for example, were borrowed from medicine. The satellite imaging currently tansforming farming practice was originally developed for defense purposes. But these innovations have spread across boundaries and had an impact on many domains of life. The international agriculture system needs to learn how to form partnerships with this expanding universe of new innovators, no matter who they are or where they come from.

At our foundation, we are committed to helping make sure this happens. Melinda and I are big believers in innovation. It is the concept on which we founded the foundation. For years, we saw the impact that innovation in the computer industry had on the richest half of the world. The way people communicate, learn, and work has been reinvented. In other industries, the cutting edge advanced just as rapidly, changing life was we knew it over and over again.

But at the same time, the poorest half was hardly benefitting from innovation at all. The market forces that spread innovation in developing countires were blocked by the poverty of developing countries. Some of the most important leadership in clearing away these obstacles and linking the poor to innovation will come from all of you.
The stakes could not be higher for poor farmer families. If our community can't find a way to channel the digital revolution, they'll fall generations further behind. If we do connect breakthrough science to the people who need it most, they will leapfrog generations of innovation they missed.

genomic : ゲノムの
seize : つかむ、とらえる、差し押さえる
Take : ~を例にあげる
decimate : 10人ごとに一人殺す、多人数を殺す
flower : 花が咲く、栄える
heritability : 相続、遺伝
come by : 手に入れる、そばを通り過ぎる
trait : 特性、特徴
self-sufficiency : 自給自足
scalable : 規模の拡張性のある、登ることができる
exponentially : 指数関数的に
enumerator : 戸別調査員
expertise : 専門的技術、ノウハウ
promising : 将来有望な
diffusion : 普及、拡散
channel : 水路を作る、向ける、流す
leapfrog : 馬跳びをする、障害物を飛び越える
ラベル:famous person speech
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