LAUNCHPAD: Mark Zuckerberg launches initiative to 'share' the internet with the world

The Facebook founder is on a mission to increase global internet access with internet.org

by Gabriella Griffith
Last Updated: 27 Aug 2013
Facebook founder and billionaire entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg has launched a campaign to bring internet access to the five billion people who are without it (that’s over 70% of the world’s population).

He has joined up with Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera and Qualcomm to launch Internet.org – an initiative which will attempt to make data transmission more efficient and reduce hardware costs.

‘Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect,’ Zuckerberg said.

‘There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy. Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it.’

According to the statement on Facebook’s Newsroom page, only 2.7 billion people currently have access to the internet and this is increasing at only 9% each year.  

‘The founding members of internet.org…will develop joint projects, share knowledge, and mobilize industry and governments to bring the world online,’ says the statement.

‘These founding companies have a long history of working closely with mobile operators and expect them to play leading roles within the initiative, which over time will also include NGOs, academics and experts as well.’

But before you start thinking of Zuckerberg as some kind of selfless, post-Berners-Lee internet gift-giver, remember how much money Facebook et al stand to make if they create even one billion more internet users. That’s a lot. In many developing countries (especially Africa) pre-paid mobile phones and mobile payments are already very popular, so this could take off very quickly.

Google’s internet expanding initiative, Project Loon, has in the past been criticised by Bill Gates who told Bloomberg Business Week, ‘when a kid gets diarrhea, no, there’s no website that relieves that.’

This initiative joins Zuckerberg’s Facebook For Every Phone app, which is designed for developing countries and optimised to use minimal data. Well, there’s no cloaking the commercial benefit in that one.  

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