Last year Bill Gates made comments regarding how providing free/improved broadband Internet access to impoverished nations is not as important as providing treatment for the Malaria epidemic. If you think about this only in the short term it is 100% correct, but if you move further away from the picture it becomes drastically altered, and instead should be seen like a band-aid trying to heal a gaping bleeding wound. It's shocking that someone as bright and caring as Bill Gates doesn't see the bigger picture here.
America has this weird love affair with charity that sometimes results in creating bigger problems in the long run because those donating and administrating the charity believe they are doing good while missing the same bigger picture that Bill Gates fails to see. Think about every time a person, a company or a corporation donates mass amounts of clothing to third world countries. The result for the person donating is a good feeling in how they are helping others and giving a shirt to a poor kid who cannot afford one. What no one asks or thinks about is what is the actual result of this action? The result is that these countries have no economic incentive to create any sort of textile market or industry, which is one less potential job for the poor.
The previous example is similar to the statement Bill Gates made, which upon hearing makes complete sense but upon further examination is troublesome. Don't get me wrong, providing them with Malaria vaccines is a valid charity and definitely worthy of donations and support, but it doesn't fix the problem, only individual cases. Providing free or low-cost Internet access opens doors to these communities that could provide them with information on how to reduce the spread of malaria or how to create the vaccines used.
I truly believe that in the past 15 years 1st World nations have had something of an educational boom because of technology, and although the system of sharing information is severely neutered because of obsolete and evil patent laws, the ease of access to information is still exponentially greater than it ever has been.
Contrary to popular belief by the conservative, old and racist communities, Third-World nations full of "dark" people contain just as many brilliant and talented people as America, China, Japan or any other country, the only difference is their impact is greatly diminished due to lacking access to information. Enabling cheap or low-cost access to this information is the greatest charity we could provide to these countries and could result in many problems being solved by those within their own community.
The suggestion I have to those who still want to help their fellow man is to concentrate on helping the less fortunate within your own country and more specifically in your own community. In my job I assist many low-income students who lack Internet access at home, requiring them to come to campus or a library (often using slow/unreliable public transportation) in order to do simple things like applying for a job, paying a bill, registering for a class or typing a paper.