Give It Away Now

2 minute read
Ed Finn

He doesn’t shake like a bowlful of jelly and that twinkle in his eye is more of an entrepreneurial glint, but Microsoft chairman Bill Gates seems intent on becoming India’s Santa Claus. The world’s richest man curried favor on the subcontinent last week by donating $100 million to help fight India’s AIDS epidemic, which could hit 25 million by 2010. “There is so much promise from the great talent in this country that AIDS should not limit it,” Gates said. Cultivating that talent is the goal of Gates’ second gift: a $400 million investment in India, birthplace of one-fifth of Microsoft’s programmers. Some of the money is for education and free Microsoft programsincluding a special $20 million grant to train teachers in I.T.but most is earmarked for building new industry partnerships. Foreign aid by the software superpower is nothing new. “Proprietary software companies hand out free copies for the same reason that cigarette companies give sample packs to college kidsto encourage addiction,” says Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, who urges folks to adopt cheap open-source software such as Linux. Given that the average Indian makes less than $400 a year, the largesse of Gates is probably the only way they’ll be able to join the info age.

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