Although Google’s Project Loon – a novel idea to beam Internet access to remote areas via high-flying balloons – includes the altruistic aims of “connecting rural, remote, and underserved areas, and for helping with communications after natural disasters,” it’s not enough for Bill Gates.
Speaking to Bloomberg Businessweek, Gates said of the project, “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.”
Gates is no stranger to the world of malaria and trying to cure it. Much in part due to the efforts of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, he predicts that the tools to eradicate the deadly disease could be viable in a few decades. His work on behalf of polio is leading to its imminent eradication. The foundation is tackling tuberculosis as well.
“Certainly I’m a huge believer in the digital revolution. And connecting up primary health-care centers, connecting up schools, those are good things,” he continued when asked if the Internet can solve problems. “But no, those are not, for the really low-income countries, unless you directly say we’re going to do something about malaria.”
The billionaire co-founders of Google, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, have been known to focus their sights on more whimsical efforts, like self-driving cars and the Internet balloons. But even though they’re a much younger company than Microsoft, they’ve still dedicated time and money to more traditional charitable aims as well. As CNET reports, “Brin and wife Anne Wojcicki started the Brin Wojcicki Foundation, and in 2012 donated more than $200 million to causes related to environmental issues, poverty prevention, and Parkinson's disease research. Brin also spent more than $300,000 to bankroll the first in-vitro burger, which could lead to a sustainable and cheap supply of protein.” Brin is also one of the creators of the wildly generous Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.
It doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect that after Google has had its fun with some of the more fanciful efforts, that the founders will roll up their sleeves and start tackling more immediate world problems. After all, it took Gates a while to get where he is now — from high-tech guru to concerned, full-time philanthropist.
“You go out in the field, which I get to do two or three times a year, and talk to mothers who’ve had their children die.” Gates said. “You’re always reminded that the world you live in is not the average place.”
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