Bill Gates Waxes Philanthropic At Microsoft 'Exit Interview'

Jun 23, 2008 (12:06 PM EDT)

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Despite retiring from his full-time duties at week's end, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said he doesn't expect to have a lot of free time on his hands in the months and years ahead -- mostly because his schedule will be filled by philanthropic efforts championed by his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"I don't know that I'll get much more [free time], the foundation work is very important," said Gates, in a video interview posted Monday on a Microsoft Web site.

Gates, 51, co-founded Microsoft 33 years ago. Friday will mark his last day as a full-time employee of the company, as a planned semi-retirement takes effect. He will remain Microsoft's chairman, but will cede day-to-day operation of the company to an executive team led by CEO Steve Ballmer, chief software architect Ray Ozzie, and chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie.

That will free up Gates to focus on a number of causes that he has tackled through his foundation, including the eradication of malaria and bridging the so-called digital divide -- a term that groups the world's populace into technology haves and have-nots.

Gates, in the interview, made no secret of the fact that he will lean on his wealthy friends to spur the foundation's efforts. "I need to orchestrate the rich world to help out," he said. But he added that you don't have to be a multi-billionaire to promote social and economic change.

"Everybody should give time and some money," said Gates. "Pick a cause, and there are so many good ones out there, that you can develop some expertise in, and perhaps involve your spouse or the rest of your family," Gates said.

He added that the Internet makes it easier for donors to monitor the progress of projects they fund. "If we're giving money for wells in a country, did they get done?" said Gates. "You can communicate a bit with the people that are involved there."

"Everyone should recognize the disparity that exits in the world today and understand that we have an opportunity to narrow that," said Gates.

When it comes to charity, Gates is known for putting his money where his mouth is. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated billions of dollars to fund medical research in AIDs, malaria, and other diseases; minority college scholarships; literacy efforts; and additional causes.