Charitable causes are getting hit hard these days, but the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, formed by the eponymous Microsoft founder and his wife, announced Thursday the donation of nearly $14 million. About half, or $6.9 million, is going to two U.S. organizations promoting broadband connectivity, and another $7 million has been awarded to fight a parasitic illness that threatens millions of people in developing countries.
The $6.9 million for broadband has been donated to advocacy group Connected Nation and to the American Library Association's Office for Information Technology Policy -- the bulk of it to Connected Nation -- to promote better broadband access in public libraries in Arkansas, California, Kansas, Massachusetts, New York, Texas, and Virginia. The goal is to bring broadband Internet of at least 1.5 Mbps to every public library in each of those states.
There's a recession angle to it: "As the economic crisis in the U.S. deepens, visits to public libraries are up across the country," a release from the Gates Foundation explained. "Many libraries in states across the country are reporting that online services are in high demand, especially for job seekers, students, and people who do not have Internet access elsewhere."
As for the other $7 million donation announced by the Gates Foundation on Thursday, it's going to something very different: the Infectious Disease Research Institute, and it will be used for diagnosis and treatment of people in Africa who have been infected with Leishmania donovani, a parasite that causes visceral leishmaniasis.
Visceral leishmaniasis affects about 500,000 people per year, 10 percent of whom die. The Seattle-based IDRI is working to develop a vaccine for the disease.