Internet or vaccines? Bill Gates criticises Facebook's Internet.org alliance

In a rare interview with the Financial Times, Bill Gates has argued that it is 'a joke' to prioritise Internet connectivity over more serious problems such as poverty, famine and the spread of disease.

Gates was criticising Internet.org, a collaboration of tech giants spearheaded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg that is working to bring web connectivity to the two thirds of the world's population that doesn't have it.

Zuckerberg labelled internet connectivity a 'human right' earlier this year, saying that connecting the next five billion "is one of the greatest challenges of our generation." However, Gates believes that there are more important issues facing the world than connectivity.

"Take this malaria vaccine," Gates said. "Hmm, which is more important, connectivity or malaria vaccine? If you think connectivity is the key thing, that's great. I don't.

"I certainly love the IT thing, but when we want to improve lives, you've got to deal with more basic things like child survival, child nutrition."

Gates has given away over $28 billion (£17.5 billion) of his own fortune through the Melinda and Bill Gates foundation, an organisation set up with his wife in 1997.

"Innovation is a good thing. The human condition – put aside bioterrorism and a few footnotes – is improving because of innovation," he told the FT, before adding that technology, "doesn't get down to the people most in need in anything near the timeframe we should want it to."

Last week Microsoft shareholders were advised to re-elect Bill Gates as one of the directors of the company, despite recent speculation that Gates should not remain with the company when the new CEO comes in.