Bill Gates urges world to prepare for next disease outbreak

Technology will play a pivotal role in preventing a substantial disease outbreak in the future, according to Microsoft's co-founder Bill Gates.

Speaking at the TED 2015 conference, Gates referred to the Ebola epidemic, saying that although Ebola largely kept under control, next time, the world may not be so lucky. As such, he urged people to make use of early warning systems provided by technology to help stop the next threat spreading.

Governments must use the intelligence they learn from planning war to fight such an epidemic, Gates said, adding: "Nato plays war games to check that people are well-trained and prepared. Now we need germ games."

Gates went on to detail how the use of tools such as mobile phones can help develop early warning systems. Mobile users around the world are able to map where the disease originates from and where it's spreading, allowing for authorities to identify major threat areas.

IBM's tracking systems, for example, enabled governments to create maps of areas where Ebola broke out, based on data provided by mobile phone users who sent text messages when new cases were discovered, Gates said.

Additionally, biological developments mean vaccinations can be developed much faster. This merging of technology and biological expertise is essential to control the next epidemic when it arrives, Gates warned.

The Bill Gates Foundation played a pivotal role in aiding people affected by the Ebola outbreak. His charity shipped vests lined with ice packs to volunteers, doctors and nurses fighting the outbreak. The equipment helped them to keep cool in the scorching African heat.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.