Microsoft Corp founder and former CEO Bill Gates has criticized Google Inc’s initiative to help humanity by bringing Internet access to developing nations. The Windows inventor and philanthropist reiterated that the ambitious project should not be guised as an initiative to uplift and help the poor.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Gates reiterated his belief that saving lives and fighting off diseases should be prioritized more than giving poor people better access to the online media. He also emphasized that the poor especially in third world countries would not appreciate renewable energy research, search data for disease activity monitoring, and crisis response apps.
Gates recalled that in 2006, Google’s non-profit charitable foundation Google.org hired Larry Brilliant, a technologist and medical doctor, as its leader (a position he does not hold anymore). That time, Brilliant was vocal in saying that food and water should be prioritized more than Wi-Fi in third-world countries. But, Gates noted, that view was turned over in 2009 when Google shifted to projects that would fit its parent company’s technology and engineering culture.
Google’s Project Loon
Google announced ‘Project Loon’ in June with the intention to bring Internet access to people in far-flung places that are not usually reached by coverage of Internet service providers. The company thinks deploying numerous Wi-Fi enabled floating balloons in the atmosphere could help up to two thirds of world population enjoy reliable Internet connection with speeds that could match the current 3G networks.
The pilot program was launched in the second week of June in New Zealand’s Canterbury area. On its initial testing day, the company launched up to 30 balloons and deployed 50 testers on the ground who tried to connect online through the Internet signals communicated through the balloons. The special balloons are solar powered and remote controlled to serve as aerial broadband transmitters in selected areas.
Gates, the philanthropist
Gates now focuses on heading his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation after stepping down several years ago as Microsoft CEO. The foundation aims to help improve education as well as health in places around the world where Gates’ intervention is needed. Malaria is among the many health issues that Gates and the foundation are closely monitoring. So far, the foundation has committed more than $2 billion for projects that fight malaria and over $1.4 billion to help curtail tuberculosis and AIDS around the world.