Thus, He spoke, at last. When asked today (November 2, 2013) by The Financial Times about his thoughts on priority between malaria vaccination and Internet connectivity he replied:
As a priority, it’s a joke. […]
Take this malaria vaccine, [this] weird thing that I’m thinking of. Hmm, which is more important, connectivity or malaria vaccine? If you think connectivity is the key thing, that’s great. I don’t.
It doesn’t surprise me at all. Bill has never understood the force of the Internet, and neither has he ever really assimilated the power of the Web. Bill and Microsoft were always late on the technology innovation train. He despised the first efforts on Internet development, understanding only his own profit-making machines of MS-DOS-centered non-communicating universes. Then came Windows (again, a concept he borrowed from Apple and Xerox). Again, Windows was an island. Only the power of TCP-IP (a free, open standard not linked to any corporation) brought that monopoly down. Then came Netscape and still Bill didn’t have a clue about the meaning and the power of the Web. It was only after Microsoft was almost crushed by Netscape that he decided to fight back and climb the steep hill. Interestingly, Microsoft made Internet Explorer from Netscape’s open code. It contradicted all possible open ways of the new Web by establishing a wicked monopoly that compelled Windows users to used IE and that made life difficult to those who wanted to try other browsers.
So, this is the man who suddenly got savvier and a benefactor of humanity. Good for him and certainly for the many people in the world who really benefit from the Foundation’s humanitarian projects. But he doesn’t grasp it yet. Internet and the Web are reallyt, really powerful forces which may bring more equality into the world and which may give voice (and thus power), knowledge-enabling information (and thus power) to the poorest and the most unconnected. Yes, being unconnected means not only being unlinked to the information highway but it is also related to the physical non-connectedness, to the poor communication networks for commerce and exchange. Besides, I question some of the Foundation’s alliances. I mean, allying oneself with Coca-Cola to combat malaria. You cure them from malaria and you kill them with sugar, sure, that’s a great bet, excuse my cynicism.
If it were for Bill-type people, we wouldn’t have Wikipedia, or Creativecommons, or the Web itself. Thus, dear Bill, for once I’d agree with Zuckerberg and Google and their own projects of delivering Internet access to the most under-connected and underprivileged peoples of the world. Of course, this does not mean you should stop working on malaria and other death sources which are to be fought now, immediately. But the power of the Internet, I’m sure, will help also solve this problem. If only we let it develop in a really open way.