Before Google's Loon initiative brings internet access to remote regions in places like Africa, Microsoft founder and former front man Bill Gates thinks people should be more concerned about the diseases that kill children in poorer nations around the world.
"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 told Business Week in a recent interview.
Google's Loon Project aims to bring internet access to remote regions using balloons.
"We believe that it might actually be possible to build a ring of balloons, flying around the globe on the stratospheric winds, that provides Internet access to the earth below," Mike Cassidy (who is in charge of the project at Google) told VentureBeat in June. "It’s very early days, but we’ve built a system that uses balloons, carried by the wind at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes, to beam Internet access to the ground at speeds similar to today’s 3G networks or faster. As a result, we hope balloons could become an option for connecting rural, remote, and underserved areas and for helping with communications after natural disasters. The idea may sound a bit crazy — and that’s part of the reason we’re calling it Project Loon — but there’s solid science behind it."
The video below offers an explanation of how system might work:
Gates, who has donated billions of dollars to fight Polio and Malaria around the world through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, thinks that the digital revolution is important, but doesn't think technology should come before saving lives. Gates posits that technology isn't important when the children you are trying to help get a better education are dying from diseases that are easily treated in other countries throughout the world. Through his work, Gates hopes to lower the death rates of children in poorer countries to levels found in richer countries.
Gates also expressed disappointment in Google.org, the company's charitable arm. Gates said that the initiative has floundered:
"Google started out saying they were going to do a broad set of things," he told Business Week. "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."
Ultimately Gates thinks treating diseases that kill children is of more importance than providing them with Internet access.