An open letter to tech billionaires: Follow Gates, Zuckerberg's lead on Ebola

Paul Allen, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg have pledged $175 million to help fight Ebola. Where are the rest of the tech billionaires?

flickr/Andrew Feinberg

Dear Tech Billionaires:

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the growing Ebola crisis that has infected more than 10,000 people in West Africa, while spreading fear across the rest of the world.

Yet most of you don’t seem to think that the Ebola outbreak has anything to do with you. That has got to change.

Kudos go out to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who has come up with a $100 million donation, including financing a pair of safety cocoons: containment units designed to evacuate infected healthcare workers from West Africa. Fellow Microsoft founder Bill Gates has offered $50 million through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife have pledged $25 million.

That’s totally awesome and deserves massive respect. But what about the rest of you?

Do you not think Ebola is a threat to yourselves or your businesses? Maybe you think you can hide on your private island—I’m looking at you Larry Ellison.

Maybe you’re having a cash-flow problem after overpaying for a basketball team—I’m asking you, Steve Ballmer.

Maybe your political beliefs tell you it’s not your responsibility to help fight a disease killing people on another continent, even though it’s not likely to stay there—sound familiar, Peter Thiel?

Unfortunately, I could go on and on. What are you doing, Tim Cook? How about you, Marissa Mayer? Hey Sergei and Larry, maybe we ought to do something about this Ebola thing before chasing after the next "moonshot"? Jeff Bezos: Sure, the Washington Post is a nice toy, but this is pretty important stuff, too.

Of course, this isn’t just about the big names in the technology industry. What about all you 25-year-old startup guys? If you’re a founder of Instagram, or Beats Audio, or Dropbox, or WhatsApp, or Workday, or Twitter, or whatever, maybe now is the time put some of your windfalls to good use. Oh, and if you’re a fabulously rich lieutenant in the tech industry, I’m talking to you, too.

This letter is also addressed to the mega-rich owners of big Asian tech companies, who also don’t seem to be doing much in this regard. Heck, tiny, dirt-poor Cuba is sending hundreds of doctors and nurses to West Africa to fight the virus. What is coming from the world’s second largest economy? Not much, apparently.

Ebola isn’t a challenge just for the tech industry, but tech is the industry that we’re all in, so I’m calling out anyone in our business who’s worth at least $1 billion to make a significant donation—seven figures or more, ideally much more—to help stop Ebola before it gets out of hand. And I’m asking them to do it publicly, to encourage their peers to do their parts as well. Think of it as an urgent, high-stakes version of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

It’s not too late, but this outbreak is only going to get nastier, more expensive, and harder to deal with if we don’t marshal resources our resources quickly.

Yeah, I know that if all this money starts pouring in at once, some if it is going to be wasted, and some of it will be misappropriated or even outright stolen along the way. That sucks, but it doesn’t get you off the hook. Even with all that, we all know it’s still going to be a lot cheaper and save a lot more lives the quicker and more massive the intervention.

So c’mon all you tech billionaires, let’s get moving and save the world. And show the world that you’re not the entitled, self-absorbed brats that many people think you are.

If you can’t figure out where to send your money, you can start with Doctors Without Borders  or this list of non-governmental organizations fighting Ebola. Of course, if you’re a billionaire, you probably have “people.” Why not put some of your best ones on it?

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: 10 new UI features coming to Windows 10