Bill Gates has today criticized Google’s plan to bring Internet to the Third World with the use of giant balloons, remarking: ‘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.’
The billionaire Microsoft founder, who last year donated $750million to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, questioned whether bringing the Internet to some of the world’s poorest countries really got to the heart of the problem.
In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Gates said that although he was a big supporter of the Internet’s power to further healthcare, it did not directly address the problem of disease.Gates, who was once again crowned the world’s richest man in 2013, also criticized Google’s track record when it comes to philanthropy.
The Internet search giant’s charity work is conducted through Google.org. It launched with much fanfare and was headed up by Larry Brilliant – a former World Health Organization leader – from 2006. He left the position in 2009.
Of its charity arm, Google says: ‘We focus on problems where Google’s assets and core capabilities – technology innovation, global presence, making massive amounts of information universally accessible and useful – play strongest and where the solutions we create have the most potential to scale.’
Among the company’s projects are crisis response for natural disasters, using Google alerts to share information from emergency services and Google Person Finder to help find family and friends.Gates told Bloomberg: ‘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.’
MailOnline was awaiting a response from Google on Gate’s remarks at the time of publication.
Google’s Project Loon, sent 30 super-pressure balloons 12 miles up into the air from New Zealand in June. They will sail around the globe at twice the altitude of aeroplanes.
The helium-filled balloons inflate to 49ft in diameter and carry transmitters that could beam 3G-speed internet to some of the 4.8billion people in the world that are not yet online, supplying an area of about 780 square miles – twice the size of New York City.
Project Loon was developed in the company’s X Lab by the same team behind Google Glasses and the driverless car.
It is hoped it could save developing countries the high cost of laying fibre cables to get online and lead to a dramatic increase in internet access for the likes of Africa and south-east Asia.