Is Google’s Raspberry Pi Donation Really an Investment?

Though some are suspect of Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) intended donation to schools around the U.K., the tech giant’s motives seem pretty clear, even if somewhat selfish.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has developed some rather interesting, small, basic computers. A key aspect of the computers is that they are cheap, costing between $25 and $35. Their price may not have been a significant deciding factor, but it surely helped when Google decided it would arrange for the donation of 15,000 Raspberry Pi computers to schools in the U.K..

Google’s reasoning behind the charitable act is that the computers could help spark an interest in computer science among today’s youth. The number of students in undergraduate and graduate level computer science in the U.K. has dropped 23 percent and 34 percent, respectively, and Google hopes to tackle that issue by making computers more readily available in schools…

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The U.K. is a hub for technological and computer innovation, and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt wants it to stay that way. Through Google and the Raspberry Pi foundation’s efforts, he hopes that “British school pupils will help drive a new wave of innovation.” To further advance this agenda, Google and Raspberry Pi are working with several educational groups to try improving the U.K.’s information and communications technology programs.

Some opponents to Google’s donation who believe schools are “being used as marketing venues by companies promoting their own brands.” They believe corporate involvement in the schools could increase manipulation and commercial exploitation.

The case against Google seems flimsy here, as the donation of Raspberry Pi computers won’t even promote Android — the devices run on Linux. So, while Google may first benefit from the publicity of the donation — and maybe a nice tax write-off — the company may also expect a return on a more long-term investment from students coming out of the enhanced U.K. computer science programs looking to bring their skills to work for tech giants like Google.

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