Bill Gates: Prioritizing worldwide Internet access over human health is 'a joke'
The Microsoft founder and philanthropist is concentrating his efforts on eradicating malaria and other diseases.
Mon, Nov 04, 2013 at 12:10 PM
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates may have made his fortune in computers, but he disagrees with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg's recently announced plan to bring the rest of the world online. Zuckerberg said providing Internet access to the 5 billion people on Earth who are not currently connected is "one of the greatest challenges of our generation." But in an interview with Financial Times Magazine, Gates — who has spent the last several years working on human health challenges through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — calls Zuckerberg's vision "a joke" compared with his own priority, creating a life-saving malaria vaccine.
The Gates Foundation has already made tremendous strides toward removing the threat of polio from the world. Earlier this year he told "60 Minutes" that malaria was next on his list, and that the tools to eradicate the disease could be available in 15 to 20 years. According to the World Health Organization, about half of the world's population is at risk from malaria, which killed an estimated 660,000 people in 2010. A shocking 90 percent of those deaths occurred in Africa. Children under the age of 5 represented the majority of those mortalities.
Expanding on his comment about Zuckerberg's vision, Gates said that Internet connectivity is not the solution to humanity's problems. Zuckerberg, in his announcement this past August, called Internet connectivity "a human right" and laid out a rough plan for how to deliver access worldwide.
Although Gates did, in the interview, call innovation "a good thing" that improves the human condition, he said that the Internet will do nothing to help the world's poorest people. He equated Zuckerberg's plan to a philanthropist building a new wing on a hospital to benefit a few people rather than investing in a cure which would help millions. The Gates Foundation invests nearly $4 billion a year on causes such as health and poverty.
Gates also pointed out how technology doesn't benefit everyone. He talked about the massive technological infrastructure now operating in Bangalore, which has created thousands of technology jobs but left people just three miles away living without running water or toilets.
Gates previously mocked Google's charitable choice of trying to provide Internet access via high-flying balloons. As he said at the time, "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."
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