Social Impact Investing, Poverty, & Bill Gates’ New Plan


Controlling the data isn’t about solving poverty, rather it’s all about creating systems to make the problems associated with poverty attractive to investors.

Data is the key — from showing interventions/investments are working to controlling the poor with data informed nudges to their behavior.

Bill Gates has now decided to tackle poverty and once again the discussion around this move has devolved into a debate over intentions rather than outcomes.

Some people think Gates is a well meaning guy who just can’t get it quite right. The harsher critics of his education policies just wish he would learn from his mistakes and move on. Fat chance.

If you look at the outcomes of his education initiatives, they’ve been disastrous. I predict his foray into poverty will be much the same.


Because Gates isn’t interested in using his foundation’s vast wealthy to directly impact poverty through say, spending money on food security, shelter, or creating living wage jobs — with no strings attached. Oh no, his idea is to manage poverty by controlling the data.

From the Seattle Times:

Desmond-Hellmann said the foundation will focus on areas where its funding can be most effective, like collecting and sharing data on factors that contribute to poverty and upward mobility.

This is a crucial pivot that demands critical examination.

Controlling the data isn’t about solving poverty, rather it’s all about creating systems to make the problems associated with poverty attractive to investors.

Data is the key — from showing interventions/investments are working to controlling the poor with data informed nudges to their behavior.

Whoever controls the data, controls the next wave of surveillance capitalism. Gates just nominated himself to be that person. This is a monopolist rather than a philanthropic move.

All of which goes to show, even poverty can be profitable. All you need is the power and influence to build a system which encourages social impact investing and then position yourself as the one who controls all the data which runs the system.

Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google parent company Alphabet, proclaimed data to be the new oil. Gates is maneuvering himself to sit on top of the next gusher.

-Carolyn Leith


3 thoughts on “Social Impact Investing, Poverty, & Bill Gates’ New Plan

  1. Say no to Project Unicorn.

    Data interoperability is not children’s friend and is not necessary to educate children.

    Also say no to dashboards on children.

  2. Long. But perhaps of interest.Then there is the ongoing quest to remove privacy barriers for “research on products/services that will improve student outcomes.”
    Bill Gates has been leading others to make the case that privacy laws limits data gathering and research on outcomes of education. In the following Gates funded publication you can see that the data wanted for cost-economic benefit analyses of a college degree is fine-grained and likely to reveal personally identifiable information (PII) in spite of much posturing about privacy., see chart on p.1.4 This publication is one of eleven commissioned by the Gates Foundation in pursuit of his views about “a college degree worth having.” (Worth means economic benefit from work associated with choosing a specific major).

    Now comes some pressure from the educational research community for a rollback of federal privacy regulations beyond some of the mile-wide loopholes already in FERPA. In October 2017, a group of researchers under the leadership of the Gates-funded Data Quality Campaign and Dr. Morgan Polikoff, Associate Professor of Education at Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California planned a trip to lobby Congress for the following changes to Student Privacy Protection Act (H.R. 3157 – 114th Congress) dormant but awaiting reintroduction for action by the 115th Congress.

    Here are the changes to FERPA wanted by Polikoff and others (begin quote) to “enable states and districts to procure the research they need. The Every Student Succeeds Act’s evidence tiers provide new opportunities for states and districts to use data to better understand their students’ needs and improve teaching and learning. FERPA must continue to permit the research and research-practice partnerships that states and districts rely on to generate and act on this evidence. Section 5(c)(6)(C), should be amended to read “the purpose of the study is limited to improving student outcomes.” Without this change, states and districts would be severely limited in the research they can conduct.
    Invest in state and local research and privacy capacity. States and districts need help to build their educators’ capacities to protect student privacy, including partnering effectively with researchers and other allies with legitimate educational reasons for handling student data. In many instances, new laws and regulations are not required to enhance privacy. Instead, education entities need help with complying with existing privacy laws, which are often complex. FERPA should provide privacy protection focused technical assistance, including through the invaluable Privacy and Technical Assistance Center, to improve stakeholders’ understanding of the law’s requirements and related privacy best practices.
    Support community data and research efforts. In order to understand whether and how programs beyond school are successful, schools and community-based organizations like tutoring and afterschool programs need to securely share information about the students they serve. Harnessing education data’s power to improve student outcomes, as envisioned by the Every Student Succeeds Act, will require improvements to FERPA that permit schools and their community partners to better collaborate, including sharing data for legitimate educational purposes including conducting joint research.
    Support evidence-use across the education and workforce pipeline. We recommend adding workforce programs to Section 5(c)(5)(A)(ii) and to the studies exception in Section 5(c)(6)(C). Just as leaders need to evaluate the efficacy of education programs based on workforce data, the country also needs to better understand the efficacy of workforce programs. FERPA should recognize the inherent connectivity between these areas to better meet student and worker needs.” (end Quote)

    The dormant bill (and likely dead) had really comprehensive prohibitions against: psychological testing (including mindsets), the use of “affective computing,” measures of interpersonal skills and intrapersonal skills, predictive modeling including facial recognition software, video surveillance and more. The bill is worth reading. I doubt that the promoters of personalized delivery of data-driven” instruction and adaptive testing for mastery will allow any effort to make FERPA as enforceable across so many types of data-gathering..

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