Computer giant Bill Gates is using his billions to bring healthcare rather than computers to the underprivileged in developing countries.

“The world’s poorest two billion people desperately need healthcare, not laptops,” he reportedly said to shocked delegates at a conference in Seattle on using computers to help the third world.

For the man who has benefited most from the information technology (IT) revolution, this reappraisal is extraordinary, The Guardian said.

“Had the Pope renounced Catholicism, the surprise would not have been greater,” exclaimed The Guardian.

Gates never expected to give the bulk of his philanthropic donations to healthcare when he began giving his fortune away six years ago. At that time, he said, he had “naively” expected to use his billions to contribute to the development of IT and computers.

Having visited Africa and other third world countries, his priorities had quickly shifted, he said.

The Gates Foundation will now devote at least two-thirds of its $21 billion charity fund to third world healthcare.

“People who thought that developing countries could benefit from an e-economy had no idea what it meant to live on $1 a day with no electricity, said Gates.

“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 or something,” said Gates.

“What they want is for their children to live,” said Gates, “Do you really have to put in computers to figure that out?”

Gates remarks have met with criticism from those who feel that technology can make a huge contribution to the global economy.

“After listening to three days of serious analysis and work, and then have Gates rather flippantly say, “You’ve got to have clean water and food” – that wasn’t exactly furthering the point of the entire meeting,” said Sun Microsystems chief research officer John Gage, who heads a charity (Netday) committed to wiring all of the world’s classrooms to the internet.

In the past year alone, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given more than $200 million to health-related initiatives, including $25 million for the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, $50 million to prevent maternal and child mortality, $20 million for international family planning efforts and $100 million towards childrens vaccines.

“As a father of two children, thinking about the medicines that I take for granted which are not available elsewhere, that sort of rises to the top of the list,” explained Gates. – Health-e News