Bill Gates does not have high hopes for Google’s plan to provide Internet access to the developing world through a network of balloons.
Gates spoke critically of the project in a new interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek about a variety of topics relating to his philanthropy through the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and the technology industry. While Gates said that he remains an optimist, many of his comments focused on what he saw tech industry folks doing wrong in the realm of improving the world.
Google has claimed that “Project Loon,” an idea from its Google X team, would help improve healthcare outcomes in the developing world by giving people access to medical information at 3G speeds. Gates thinks that’s bunk.
“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. 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.”
He also had strong words for fellow tech moguls who have thrown their weight behind going into space exploration, saying that he didn’t see how it would improve the human condition.
“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.”
While Gates didn’t call out specific people in the interview, one of the members of the tech elite who’s focused on going into space is former Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who founded Stratolaunch Systems.
Blair Hanley Frank is a technology journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has also worked for Macworld, PCWorld and TechHive. He can be found on Twitter @belril.