"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."
That's what Bill Gates said in response to Google's plan to launch balloons (Project Loon, they're calling it) in less developed counties that will bring Wi-Fi to those who otherwise wouldn't have access to it. In an interview, Gates criticized Google for not doing more—and Gates is one with enough experience in charity, and money to give, to earn the right to critique Google's efforts. "When a kid gets diarrhea, there's no website that relieves that," he said.
"Certainly I'm a huge believer in the digital revolution," Gates continued. "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."
Google does operate Google.org, its non-profit, but Gates says they talked the talked when it came to doing charity, but have dropped the ball when it came to fullfilling the good they could potentially do. "Google started out saying they were going to do a broad set of things," Gates said. "They hired [former Google.org leader] 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."
Of course, the act of bring free Wi-Fi to anyone is an awesome thing, and it takes on new meaning in a less developed country. But, the flipside to it, is that Google would, in turn, benefit from the increase in traffic to their site from these areas getting access to Wi-Fi.
Do you agree with Gates, should Google do more?