Google's internet balloon project "not going to uplift the poor" says Bill Gates

Microsoft-founder wary of projects that seem more fun than they do practical

Bill Gates has criticised Google’s plan to bring internet connectivity to developing countries using balloons, saying “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,” said Gates in an interview with Businessweek. “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.”

Google’s Project Loon was announced in June this year, and plans to use a series of high altitude balloons to broadcast wifi over regions with poor infrastructure.

Initial tests with 30 balloons in New Zealand were successful, showing how the system could relay internet connections via ground-based receivers; providing access to the web in places where it was prohibitively expensive to install broadband cable.

Gates, however, is sceptical of the long-term help such a project would offer. He said that whilst Google had originally set out to have a far broader remit, the company was now just doing “its core thing”:

“Fine,” he continued, “But the actors who just do their core thing are not going to uplift the poor.”

Gates was speaking to Businessweek about his work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a philanthropic private foundation with an endowment of $36.2 billion.

The Foundation is particularly dedicated towards fighting the spread of malaria – a preventable and treatable disease that still kills hundreds of thousands of people each year. The foundations has committed $2bn in grants to date, helping to fund R&D for a vaccine, as well as helping deploy equipment such as mosquito nets.

Google’s own charitable arm, Google.org, supports a range of projects, many of which have a technological bent. The Crisis Response project, for example, helps to provide tools for first responders in disaster situations.

Gate’s comments in the interview suggest that he favours more direct, interventionist action. Responding to a question regarding individual who are pursuing space travel as an ‘extracurricular interest’, Gates said:

“Everybody’s got their own priorities. In terms of improving the state of humanity, I don’t see the direct connection. I guess it’s fun, because you shoot rockets up in the air. But it’s not an area that I’ll be putting money into.”

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - North West

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - South West

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

    £21000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent