(WASHINGTON) — With its Project Loon Google has grand plans to bring the Internet to the developing world with balloons. The company first began testing the large Internet-equipped floating balloons in New Zealand, but has now begun testing a few in California’s Central Valley. But coinciding with the tests is a new critic of the ambitious project: Bill Gates.
“The purpose of these flights is to allow us to research various approaches for improving the technology, like the power systems (solar panel orientation and batteries), envelope design, and radio configuration,” Google posted on its Project Loon Google+ page. Google notes that there was major signal interference when the balloon was flown over Fresno.
But even if that technology progresses and improves, Microsoft Chairman Gates believes the project isn’t critical and that there are bigger issues that need to be addressed in less-developed countries.
“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,” Gates told Bloomberg Businessweek in an interview. “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.”
Gates runs the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is dedicated to improving education and world health around the world. Malaria is amongst the many problems the foundation is working on. It has committed over $2 billion in grants towards to fighting malaria and more than $1.4 billion to fight AIDS and tuberculosis.
Similar to Google Glass, Project Loon is one of Google’s futuristic projects. Google has said that the balloon effort is in its “very early days.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Robynn Garfield, KSL.com
Sam Turner, Deseret News