21. August 2013–
Taking to Facebook last night to make a rare status update, Mark Zuckerberg announced a new partnership – Internet.org, which aims to "make internet access available to all". The Facebook CEO is working in partnership with internet giants Ericsson, MediaTrek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung on the new project – details of exactly how the companies plan on implementing the plan are hazy.
The partnership wants to provide internet access to the five billion people who currently have no way to get online, especially in developing countries. Today, only a bit more than a third of the world's population (or 2.7 billion people) have access to the internet.
The new partners will work together by developing joint projects, sharing knowledge and mobilising governments to promote digital connectivity. In a press release, they said the plan includes cutting the costs of delivering internet to mobile phones and producing cheaper, higher-quality smartphones. They will also invest in tools to reduce the amount of data needed to use apps or internet services.
Alongside humanitarian goals, Internet.org has obvious benefits for Facebook – currently more than a billion people are on the social network, a number likely to boom if people without internet access could get online. At the moment, Facebook is facing market saturation in the US and other developed areas including Europe. The largest spaces for user acquisition are now Africa, Asia and Latin America – poor internet access has hindered adoption in these areas, something that Internet.org hopes to change.
Here is Zuckerberg's status update from last night, which has already gained over 50,000 likes:
"For nine years, we’ve been on a mission to connect the world. We now connect more than one billion people, but to connect the next five billion we must solve a much bigger problem: the vast majority of people don’t have access to the internet.
“I’m focused on this because I think it’s one of the greatest challenges of our generation. I’ve attached a rough plan I’ve written outlining the work Facebook is doing to solve this and how our industry can work together to connect the next five billion people.”
The partnership will also include NGOs, academics and "experts". Google is noticeably absent from the list although it has also been working on increasing internet access in rural areas and developing countries (including the creative idea of delivering internet by balloons).
Here's the complete Facebook statement, including a lot of PR talk from the companies involved. It'll be interesting to see how the partnership translates to concrete actions. At the moment, it all sounds very promising but we're going to wait for some results – or at least an action plan.
Image credit: Flickr user deneyterrio
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