Thursday, February 5, 2009

My kind of philanthropy

Bill Gates releasing a teeny tiny swarm of mozzies intent on bringing down the electronic age's most bankable names.

I'm all for crazy rich people doing philanthropic things with their money, particularly people who regularly come across their name and the word 'billionaire' in the same sentence.

I don't pretend to know anything about the Gates Foundation (for all I know it could be a front for the Let's Club Baby Seals Society) but I liked the point Gates was making on this particular day; pity the online newspapers kept losing it behind the couch.

So the sticky is that at a conference in the US this week Gates gave a presentation on the Gates Foundation's malaria eradication program. During the talk, he released some mosquitoes into the lecture theatre and said "not only poor people should experience this".

Fair call for a good cause. Malaria is a nasty, nasty disease that kills between one and three million people a year, mostly kids living in poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. One of the most suckful things about it is that it hits the lowest income groups hardest because they don't have the resources to deal with it. The disease then in turn worsens their poverty because it means time out of work, school, etc, and all the losses associated with that.

And while I'm up here waving my arms around on the Malaria Eradication Soapbox I should tell you that the lowest income group in Malawi spend a whopping 32% of their annual income on treating malaria, compared to 4% of households with low-to-high incomes. 32%! That's nuts.

So boo malaria and hurray the Gates Foundation malaria eradication program.

What really got me about the media coverage of the 'event' was that the words 'malaria eradication' appeared once in each story (if at all) while the bulk of the copy was taken up with name-dropping and advertising for the conference.

Yes, yes, yes, Bill Gates released a "swarm" of mosquitoes into an audience that included "high profile members of online networking service Twitter"; and oh wow the story was confirmed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar on his Twitter account and gosh the official conference Twitter profile confirmed the mosquitoes were real; and can you believe that previous speakers at the conference have included such famous people as Bill Clinton, Al Gore and a coupla Nobel laureates; and yes in case you're thinking of a conference-related holiday this year this particular conference is being held in Long Beach, California; and lastly, just so you know, Twitter is a "micro-blogging service where people post short, text-only comments or updates on what they are doing".

Fascinating, I'm sure, but what about the malaria? Wasn't that the whole point? Sheesh, maybe that point is still hiding behind the couch.


squib said...

I just think this might have had more impact if the mosquitoes he released were really carrying malaria

Kettle said...

I agree squib! That would really make things happen.

CeeCee said...

Oh, I just assumed they did! I was beginning to feel anxious for these big names.

Kettle said...

Hee hee, CeeCee :) Maybe the big names have special Inspector Gadget computers with extendable fly-swats that whizz out and start swatting the air if malarial mozzies are detected. Or maybe they have huge legal teams and would happily spend the next 10 years in court suing Bill Gates. Both would probably make them feel better.