August 9, 2013
Bill Gates Criticizes Google’s Project Loon
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Microsoft founder and multi-billionaire Bill Gates is skeptical that Google’s Loon project, which seeks to bring Internet access to less-developed nations by floating broadband transmitters on high-altitude balloons, can materially improve the quality of life for people living in those countries.“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,” Gates said on Thursday during an interview with Bloomberg-BusinessWeek.
“When a kid gets diarrhea, no, there’s no website that relieves that," Gates said. While he is a big believer in the digital revolution, these advancements are not “for the really low-income countries, unless you directly say we’re going to do something about malaria.”
Gates’ position on Loon isn’t surprising, considering the billions he has donated to eradicate diseases like polio and malaria in many third-world countries. He has already funded $26.1 billion in charity projects through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. To date, he has donated $28 billion of his own money to the organization, which has a $36 billion endowment.
During the Bloomberg interview, Gates also expressed disappointment with the way Google has managed its non-profit arm Google.org.
“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,” he said.
Gates vision for his foundation differs from that of Google’s executives in that he wants to bring the death rates for children in poor countries down to the same levels as developed countries, and to equalize education in the US between inner-city and suburban kids.
But Google appears to be doing its part to help people living in poor countries. Unveiled in June, Project Loon launched a pilot in the Canterbury area of New Zealand, with 30 balloons in the air and 50 testers on the ground. With balloon hot spots flying overhead, the idea is that people can connect to the Web without having to build a sophisticated physical infrastructure on the ground.
The system could also potentially help with communications in the aftermath of a natural disaster, Google says.