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Bill Gates Says Technology Alone Won’t Solve Education Problems

by Lauren Silverman 7 Mar 2013 3:36 PM

5,000 attended South by Southwest’s education conference, which ended today.


Over the years, South by Southwest has become a launching pad for new bands and start-up companies. Now, it’s claiming its place in the world of education. KERA’s Lauren Silverman reports the education part of the conference is only in its third year, but 5,000 attendees have packed Austin’s convention center.

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Bill Gates addresses SXSWedu Thursday morning.

All week educators have been talking about the latest digital technologies for learning – from online lectures to open re-mixable textbooks. But when Bill Gates took to the podium for the keynote, he warned that just because new education technology is out there doesn’t mean our work is done.

“Many times in the past people have said there is going to be a revolution, TV sets being rolled into the classroom, quizzes being done on the computer and of course in terms of real instruction, none of those pronouncements ended up being true,” Gates says.

If you look at test results in schools, Gates says, you’ll see literacy rates and math scores have for the most part stayed the same. This worries Gates, who’s foundation spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year on education worldwide. But now that students and teachers can access online resources so cheaply, he says the opportunity for technology to make a difference in education is finally here. What we need is more money for research and entrepreneurs willing to take risks.

“In this space we either improve the quality of education in terms of grad rates, math, reading or we stay flat like we have for the last few decades.

A lot, he says, hangs in the balance.

The education conference ends today,  but the rest of the South by Southwest conference kicks off Friday. You can follow all of KERA’s coverage at or on twitter at #kerasxsw.