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Bill Gates Pooh-poohs Google's Internet Balloons

Back in June, Google announced Project Loon, a new initiative that aims to bring internet to two thirds of the world's population using balloons. Though the idea itself is a bit off the wall, its an admirable goal. Unfortunately, it's not a realistic one. At least, according to philanthropist Bill Gates it's not.  Speaking in a recent interview to Bloomberg Businessweek, Gates said Google's balloons aren't going to help those dying of malaria or a child with diarrhea. 

"When you’re dying of malaria, I suppose you’ll look up and see that balloon, and I’m not sure how it’ll help you. When a kid gets diarrhea, no, there’s no website that relieves that," he told Bloomberg.

Bloomberg asked Gates, "Can bringing Internet access to parts of the world that don’t have it help solve problems?" and referenced Google's Project Loon specifically. Gates responded that while he is hugely in favor of connecting health-care centers and schools, really low-income countries need more.

"Certainly I’m a huge believer in the digital revolution. And connecting up primary-health-care centers, connecting up schools, those are good things. But no, those are not, for the really low-income countries, unless you directly say we’re going to do something about malaria," he said, adding, "Google started out saying they were going to do a broad set of things. They hired Larry Brilliant, and they got fantastic publicity. And then they shut it all down. Now they’re just doing their core thing. Fine. But the actors who just do their core thing are not going to uplift the poor."

Google said in June that it hopes Project Loon will boost education, healthcare, small businesses, and more. The pilot program is currently underway in New Zealand.

  • ubercake
    The point he's making is these people don't even have basic infrastructure by which to sustain healthy living conditions (running water, sewage, nutrition, etc...). Internet is not a priority.

    I'm sure google would like to get their cameras on even the poorest of communities in order to exploit their data for marketing purposes.
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  • aoneone
    Oh I get it, he craps on Google.. oh HAR HAR.. =(
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  • catfishtx
    I am sure the citizens of Middle Earth will appreciate the Internet access.
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  • whiteodian
    I agree with him. If you are dying from treatable diseases or starving, you really don't give a rats arse about the internets. It is Google's money, but it could be more wisely spent or donated to a better cause.
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  • phillipw
    Is this the same Bill Gates that blew off the internet browser, then forced their version on people using a MS operating system?
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  • Onus
    Each is providing different services of some value to a community. They are different, and may or may not overlap, but both are of value. This looks like Mr. Gates is trying to act holier-than-thou compared to Google. It's a cheap shot, and imho unwarranted. If he thinks altruism should be the measure of merit, he has drunk some of the kool-aid, and needs to remember that wealth must be earned before it can be given away.
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  • omnimodis78
    Access to information is a great idea as long as the public you're trying to "uplift" has access to it (say, at a library) and if they understand how it can be used as a meaningful tool. I doubt a person whose sole aim is to survive from one day to the next, and to provide the basic essentials of life for their families, would understand this, or would even care to understand it. Gates, as usual, has a firm grasp on the reality of the situation, instead of the PR makefeelgood nonsense that Google is pulling here. If Google came out and stated that they donated 1 billion dollars to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, then I'd say bravo, otherwise it's just PR flatulence. And yes, I wholeheartedly believe that the Gates Foundation is one of the only legit private humanitarian foundations out there today. No question about it.
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  • DRosencraft
    It is easy for people to forget about the problems that organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation deals with. They link the name Gates to Microsoft and think that's all he does. I get that Google is still a relatively young company, and they're still trying to mature and give themselves a firm footing. But it is getting near the time for them to branch away from their "core". There is a very, very large part of even the United States that isn't connected to the internet, let alone the world. The internet is an amazing thing. It holds tons of potential. But actors like Microsoft, Google, Apple, etc, should think a little harder about applying their vast means to solving problems that don't necessarily directly benefit their bottom line or advance their own company interest. Not saying they have to sell the farm and give away their fortunes, but while there's no guarantee all of them will buy Android or Windows or iOS devices, I'm sure someone saved from malaria, or given clean, reliable, drinking water, will remember the effort given towards helping better their lives.
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  • cscott_it
    @aoneone
    pooh-pooh vb
    (tr) to express disdain or scorn for; dismiss or belittle

    I think it's admirable that he has devoted so much of his time and money since he's stepped away from Microsoft years ago. Honestly, I'm not sure I could say the same. Sure I'd throw money at it were I super-duper elite, but this is something he is trying to pragmatically approach and fix. He is devoted to the foundation and regardless of what you say/think about Microsoft - it's hard to be an online douche to someone who has tried to do so much to contribute to the greater good.

    I think he is right, and that the internet balloons are a good idea - but these places don't have electricity half of the time. They don't have clean water. People are dying of diseases which are unknown of in first world countries (How rare is it for someone in a 1st world country to die from diarrhea - most people don't even know that it is a killer ).

    Internet is important - but figuring out a sustainable way for them to get the basics (electricity, clean water, reliable ways to prevent curable diseases, etc.) would have a much more meaningful impact on their lives and better enable them to actually USE internet.
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  • g00fysmiley
    valid point, but it is still not a bad investment, just liek putting new tires on a car with bad tires, no engine, a seized transmission and broken drive shaft. it gets the thing closer to being driveable but the car has bigger problems .
    Reply