A little bit of give and tech

By | January 21, 2007

Excerpts from Bill Gates’ speech at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose when he received the museum’s James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award for his philanthropic work through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (“The Way We Give“, FORTUNE magazine, 22 January 2007):

“In 1997, I went to South Africa to dedicate a community center in Soweto, one of the poorest parts of the country. Microsoft had given a computer to this community center, and when I was out there they wanted to show me their appreciation. But in the end they unintentionally showed me something else. The community center didn’t have electricity, so they had run an extension cord more than 200 yards to a noisy diesel generator. And sure enough, the computer was up and running.

But I knew that the minute the press left and I left, the generator would be used for some more urgent task, the computer would be largely irrelevant to the people who used the community center, and they’d go back to worrying about the very basic challenges they face in their lives – problems that a computer was not going to solve.

So even though PCs and technology can often be part of a solution, we need to remember to put technology in the service of humanity. It’s not just taking what we do in the rich world and subsidizing its use in the developing world. Doing that elevates technology as if it were the end goal, but we’re just trying to use technology to meet human needs.”

I guess that explains Gates’ low regard for Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative, other than the often reported vested interests of Gates to keep Windows dominant in all aspects of our lives, everywhere.

Related post:
The “wonders” of technology

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