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Bill Gates for President--next time. Now that we've gotten used to
millionaires running for the presidency, why not a billionaire and a
self-made one at that? At least Gates is aware that the biggest problem
in the world is not how to make some Americans even wealthier but how to
deal with the abysmal poverty that defines the condition of two-thirds of
God's people.

Odd as it may seem, it took the richest man in the world in a dramatic
speech last week to remind us that no man is an island, and that when
most of the world's population lives on the edge of extinction, it mocks
the rosy predictions for our common future on a wired planet.

Gates shocked a conference of computer industry wizards with the news
that the billions of people who subsist on a dollar a day are not in a
position to benefit from the Information Age. He charged that the hoopla
over the digital revolution, which he pioneered, is now a dangerous
distraction from the urgent need to deal seriously with the festering
problem of world poverty. Gates, who has donated an enormous amount to
charity, also made the case that private donations alone will not solve
the problem, and that massive government intervention is needed.

"Do people have a clear idea of what it is to live on $1 a day?" Gates
asked the conferees. "There's no electricity in that house. None. You're
just buying food, you're trying to stay alive."

The "Creating Digital Dividends" conference he addressed was one of
those occasions in which the computer industry indulges the hope that as
it earns enormous profits, it is solving the major problems facing
humanity. The premise of the conference was that "market drivers" could
be used "to bring the benefits of connectivity and participation in the
e-economy to all the world's 6 billion people."

As reported by Sam Howe Verhovek in the New York Times, Gates, who was
the conference's closing speaker, doused that hope by denying that the
poor would become part of the wired world any time soon. In a follow-up
interview, Gates amplified his view of what occurs when computers are
suddenly donated to the poor: "The mothers are going to walk right up to
that computer and say, 'My children are dying, what can you do?' They're
not going to sit there and like, browse eBay."

Gates, who has long extolled the power of computers to solve the
world's problems, criticized himself for having been "naïve--very naïve."
He has shifted the focus of the $21 billion Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation from that of donating Information Age technology to meeting
the health needs of the poorest, beginning with the widespread
distribution of vaccines.

The New York Times reported that Gates "has lost much of the faith he
once had that global capitalism would prove capable of solving the most
immediate catastrophes facing the world's poorest people, especially the
40,000 deaths a day from preventable diseases. He added that more
philanthropy and more government aid--especially a greater contribution
to foreign health programs by American taxpayers--are needed for that."

Given that Gates is presumably the biggest of those taxpayers, that is
the most provocative challenge to the complacency of the
"free-markets-and-trade-will-solve-everything" ideology that dominates
the thinking of both major parties. US foreign aid to the poor
represents a pathetic fraction of our budget, while we devote ever larger
sums to building a sophisticated military without a sophisticated enemy
in sight. Yet those misplaced priorities went totally unchallenged by the
presidential candidates of both major parties.

Poverty is the major security problem both within and without our
country. These days the have-nots have many windows to the haves, and
resentment is inevitable. It is the breeding ground of disorder and
terror, and it is absurd to think that a stable new world order can be
built on such an uneven foundation.

One of the ironies of the wired world is that those terrorists in
their remote mountain camps are wired into the Internet, which has
facilitated the coordination of their evil plans. The terrorists have all
the laptops and cellular phones they want, but they depend for their
effectiveness on recruiting from the ranks of the alienated poor who
don't have medicines, food or a safe source of water.

Open access to the broadband Internet is essential if we are to insure that a diverse range of voices has a chance of reaching out to citizens in the new era of high-speed communications.

Once upon a time there was a struggling young California band. Its music was too loud and its image too unpolished for MTV.

The pace of recent events made one of the most significant rulings in
the history of American antitrust law seem like an anti-climax.

This article is adapted by permission from Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century (O'Reilly).

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's factual findings in United States v. Microsoft, released November 5, spell the doom of Microsoft as we have known it.

The recent CBS-Viacom-bination--at $37 billion, the largest media deal ever--mirrored previous purchases, like Disney's acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC and Time Warner's taking of Turner Broadc

Armed militias had forced most journalists to flee from East Timor by September 7, the day then-President B.J. Habibie and General Wiranto of Indonesia declared martial law for the region.

We are entering, techno-boosters breathlessly proclaim, a "third industrial revolution," that of the "knowledge-based" or "new" economy.

Blogs

The new political correctness is real, even if it isn’t always wrong.

January 29, 2015

The president wants cities to be able to innovate with municipal broadband systems.

January 15, 2015

Standing in opposition to net neutrality is tantamount to standing against innovation, against small business, against private-sector job creation and against competition.

December 2, 2014

Authors Kevin Cooke and Dan Lehrer accurately foresaw in 1993 the debate over net neutrality we’re having today.

November 19, 2014

The famous blogger needn’t panic. Twitter’s new partnership with the feminist group WAM! is an attempt to fight abuse, not impose ideological censorship. 

November 12, 2014

The president calls for the reclassification of Internet services under telecommunications in the name of an open Internet.

November 10, 2014

The FCC is reportedly considering a “hybrid” plan that could still leave us with exactly what we don’t want: fast lanes for the 1% and slow lanes for everybody else.

November 6, 2014

We're running out of time to fight for net neutrality.

September 10, 2014

Jobs that demand constant social media interaction create different burdens for men and women.

August 12, 2014

“This is exactly why we need Net Neutrality. We don’t want to live in a world where Comcast or AT&T gets to decide which side of the story you see.”

August 1, 2014