Democrats attack Gates' "charity"

Democrats attack Gates' "charity"

Summary: Australian Democrats IT spokesperson Brian Greig has lashed out at Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates over local charity contributions Gates announced as part of his visit to Australia yesterday. Gates locked arms with Prime Minister John Howard to announce the contributions before a tightly vetted contingent of media in Sydney yesterday.

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Australian Democrats IT spokesperson Brian Greig has lashed out at Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates over local charity contributions Gates announced as part of his visit to Australia yesterday.

Gates locked arms with Prime Minister John Howard to announce the contributions before a tightly vetted contingent of media in Sydney yesterday. Under the program Microsoft will spend AU$40 million over the next five years to help improve technology literacy in under-privileged communities.

But Greig today characterised the Microsoft's community welfare contributions as tainted charity.

According to Greig, the software tycoon's global philanthropy exercises carry a hidden agenda to persuade beneficiary governments to reverse policies promoting the use of open source software.

"Bill Gates is a very astute and very wealthy business and he doesn't do anything based purely on generosity or philanthropy," said Greig.

Greig described the AU$40 million sum as "a drop in the ocean" compared to the estimated AU$1 billion in revenue the software giant generates in Australia, and helped the company "to create a soft cuddly face" for the public.

Greig claims Gates' whistle-stop visit to the country was more likely to have been motivated by NSW Commerce Minister John Della Bosca's intention to end the state government's reliance on proprietary software.

Greig claimed that there were precedents for the case that countries that had adopted pro-open source stances reversed their position after accepting Gates' charity.

He hinted at the case of the Indian government, which was contemplating a similar strategy to NSW government up until November 2002 when Gates announced he would pump over US$500 million into the economy.

According to reports at the time, in addition to assistance from Gates' highly publicised global vaccination programs Gates committed US$100 million to help combat AIDS in India. The remaining US$400 million went into to expanding the company's activities and 'improving computer literacy' in the country.

As if to reinforce his point, Greig echoed a metaphor that Microsoft is beginning to see as a threat to its image, describing the charities' decisions to accept Gate's "largesse" as embarking on a form of addiction in which they will become dependent on Microsoft for future software.

"Once a group is 'addicted' to a certain form of proprietary software, moving away from that framework can be very difficult and very expensive," he said.

The comments echo those of Sergio Amadeu, president of the Brazilian National Institute for Information Technology. Amadeu faced legal action in Brazil early this month for comparing Microsoft's activities in giving software to developing governments for free to that of "drug dealers".

Open Source Industry Australia called the lawsuit an unjustifiable attack on freedom of expression and defended the comments, claiming they bore striking similarity to those they alleged Gates himself made in 1998.

OSIA alleged that Gates, in addressing the question of software piracy in China, said:

"As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade".

OSIA believes the lawsuit was pursued in response the Brazilian government's decision to shift 300,000 of its PCs from Windows to Linux.

"If Mr Gates can make comments that allude to Microsoft's practices getting users addicted to their software, then Microsoft has no grounds to claim that Mr. Amadeu's comments are defamatory," wrote OSIA in a statement released last week.

In January 2002 a British charity criticised the activity of the Gates-funded Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI) Africa claiming it created new markets for costly vaccines while doing little to tackle major diseases.

Microsoft Australia declined ZDNet Australia's  requests for comment on this report.

Topics: Open Source, Microsoft

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  • The quote from Bill Gates about China and users becoming "sort of addicted" can be found in an old CNET story at: http://news.com.com/2100-1023-212942.html?legacy=cnet
    anonymous
  • Just wondering if it is $40 Million in cash, or $40 Million worth of Microsoft software, which would actually cost Microsoft . . . er . . .nothing . . .
    anonymous
  • Gates shed some light on his own hard-nosed business philosophy. "Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, but people don't pay for the software," he said. "Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade."
    - Bill Gates 1998
    anonymous
  • I hope they enforce anti piracy laws!!!!...
    That way, M$ doesn't lock in any more users than what his already got.

    Piracy has done GOOD for Gates, as much as he rants about how bad it is & how we should crack down on it.

    Well, I AGREE, let's come down hard on those who pirate M$ crap code, Microsoft code is cheap & faulty, why get our children to use it?? Why?? So that Gates can lock them into a lifetime of Windows Licencing fees??????????
    anonymous
  • Have a look here for what he's given thru his foundation alone - http://gatesfoundation.com/Grants/

    7 billion, USD approximately. I've heard figures of 23 billion mentioned as total donations. Either figure make the Democrats whining look like sour grapes.

    This is apart from academic pricing for MS software...
    anonymous
  • $40 Million over 5 years. Hmm not very much money at all really. That's if it is money and not software. The world will be a better place when MS goes the way of apple and down to 5 percent of the market.
    anonymous
  • Bill Gates is looking out for Bill Gates. Microsoft promotes Bill Gates. Even his charities are used to promote Bill Gates. Bill Gates is an incredible businessman, but his focus is on himself, rather than the improvement of mankind.
    Beware of Bill Gates, for if you annoy him, he WILL react (Netscape).
    Why do I not fear him? Simple. I have next to nothing, therefore he cannot do me significant harm.
    anonymous
  • Gates' generosity

    Bill Gates would do more for the 3 rd world by providing software at lower prices, and then allowing these countries to make their own decisions about how to improve things in these countries. like schools, hospitals. The really sad thing is that the 3rd world feels marginalised by not having access to windows software. If only they knew........
    anonymous
  • Microsoft donations and value

    Microsoft are always on the books as having given X number os millions of dollars worth of technology (er software) in its donations to charities and schools. When Open Source software is given away (as it is), the value is obviously low as a result.

    Do you think if we spoke of the value of the software given away in the Open Source arena as compared to the equivalent MS software the value of this donation would have been ...$$$ People may more readily see what they are been given.
    anonymous
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    anonymous