Facebook Inc. founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to bring the Internet to 5 billion new users around the world.
While about 2.7 billion people have access to the Internet, about two-thirds of the world’s population don’t have that privilege, according to a press release from Facebook.
So alongside industry heavyweights Ericsson, MediaTek Inc., Nokia Corp., Opera Software, Qualcomm Inc., and Samsung Electronics, Facebook announced it’d be spearheading a site called Internet.org. The companies are slated to develop projects together, share knowledge, and lobby governments to get people using the World Wide Web. Further down the road, NGOs and academics may get involved with internet.org as well.
“A knowledge economy … encourages worldwide prosperity. It’s not zero sum. If you know something, that doesn’t stop me from knowing it too. In fact, the more things we all know, the better ideas, products and services we can all offer and the better all of our lives will be,” said Zuckerberg in a whitepaper.
“By bringing everyone online, we’ll not only improve billions of lives, but we’ll also improve our own as we beneﬁt from the ideas and productivity they contribute to the world.”
The plan is to make Internet access affordable, connecting people to the Web through mobile devices. There’s also talk of making smartphones cheaper but of higher quality, as well as building partnerships to get Internet access to communities without it.
That makes sense, given that mobile devices are the primary connection to the Internet for many people living in developing countries. Some even rely upon mobile payments as their main way to conduct transactions, according to this Pew Research Centre report from 2012.
Internet.org also hopes to make data use more efficient, as its partners plan on investing in tools that cut back on the amount of data needed to use the Internet and apps. Plans include building data compression tools, systems that cache data effectively, improving network capabilities so they can handle data better, and developing apps that don’t take up as much data.
And at the ground level, internet.org’s partners say they will try to support new businesses that enable people to get online. That means giving mobile operators, device manufacturers, and developers incentives to provide less expensive Internet access. It also could be as simple as trying to get more languages installed on mobile devices.
With more people online, there’s also a solid chance that’ll translate into more people using social networks, including Facebook. In another Pew Research Centre study, researchers found once people in developing countries did get Internet access, they were pretty quick to join a social network, sharing their views on music, movies, community events, sports, and politics.
The Internet.org site goes live today. More details on the project can be found in a whitepaper here.