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Gates’ priorities – A change in focus

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Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates says the world’s poor people needs help meeting basic needs before technology can improve the quality of life in developing countries, the New York Times reported Nov. 3.

Speaking at a recent World Resources Institute conference in Seattle, Gates said the world’s poorest two billion people desperately need health care, not laptops.

Gates is critical of groups that think technology can solve the world’s problems, the Times said.

“Whenever the computer industry has a panel on the digital divide and I’m on the panel, I always think, ’Okay, you want to send computers to Africa, what about food and electricity — those computers aren’t going to be that valuable,’ ” he said.

“Mothers are going to walk right up to that computer and say, my children are dying, what can you do?” Gates said. “They are not going to sit there and browse eBay or something. What they want is for their children to live. Do you really have to put in computers to figure that out?”

Gates confessed he was naďve when he began his charitable works six years ago and expected projects involving technology and computers would make up the bulk of his giving.

Today, the priorities of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have shifted to basic needs. Health care, especially the development and distribution of vaccines, accounts for about two-thirds of the foundation’s grants.

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