In a new interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Bill Gates discussed his Foundation’s work to eradicate polio and malaria, while suggesting that vaccine programs and similar initiatives to fight disease and poverty will ultimately do much more for the world than technology projects devoted to connecting everybody to the Internet.
While Gates professes his belief in the so-called digital revolution, he doesn’t think projects such as Google’s Internet blimps (designed to transmit WiFi signals over hundreds of miles, bringing Internet to underserved areas in the process) will do the third world nearly as much as good as basic healthcare. “When you’re dying of malaria, I suppose you’ll look up and see that [Internet] balloon, and I’m not sure how it’ll help you,” he said. “When a kid gets diarrhea, no, there’s no website that relieves that.”
Gates then sharpened his attack on the search-engine giant: “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.” Google focusing on its core mission is fine, he added, “but the actors who just do their core thing are not going to uplift the poor.”
The Microsoft co-founder also has no intention of following Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and other tech entrepreneurs into the realm of space exploration. “I guess it’s fun, because you shoot rockets up in the air,” he said. “But it’s not an area that I’ll be putting money into.”
Instead, he’s putting money into projects such as a special thermos capable of reliably transporting vaccines over long distances, as well as working to improve primary and secondary education in the United States. Gates also maintains a blog, The Gates Notes, in which he details his recent public lectures about saving the world (along with his current reading list and other topics of interest). But that doesn’t mean his fascination with tech has faded: in an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit earlier this year, he talked about everything from databases and free software to canceled Microsoft projects.
Image: The Gates Notes