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Bill Gates slams Google’s ‘Project Loon’ balloon internet plans

Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates has hit out at Google’s plans to provide internet access to people in developing nations, by suspending hot air balloons in the sky.

Gates, who now spends most of his time and money trying to wipe out malaria and polio through his charity foundation, says Google’s lofty plans won’t be of much use to the millions of children dying of the disease in third-world countries.

Google’s ‘pie in the sky’ Project Loon scheme aims to provide internet access to the two thirds of the world that can’t yet get online, by floating Wi-Fi-enabled balloons on the edge of space.

The plan, which is still very much in the proof of concept stage, is to those in the developing world and remote areas access to education and medical professionals.

However Gates says Google’s plans won’t help the core issues, while insinuating Google should be doing more to help the poor and, essentially, be more like Bill.

He told Bloomberg: 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.

“Google started out saying they were going to do a broad set of things. They hired Larry Brilliant [the former director of Google’s charitable arm], 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.”

What are your thoughts on Bill’s explosive comments? Is Google doing its bit through increasing tech opportunities in the developing world, or should it turn its attentions to directly helping those in need? Let us know in the comments below.

Meanwhile, here’s a look at what Google’s up to with Project Loon.

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