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Facebook and partners launch Internet.org in quest for global Internet access

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of social network powerhouse Facebook, is on a quest to bring universal Internet access to everyone on the planet. Zuckerberg announced the launch of Internet.org, a partnership initiative with Nokia, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung that aims to make Internet access available to everyone in the world. If the project succeeds, an estimated 5 billion people worldwide who currently don’t have access will benefit.

Global Internet access

You would be forgiven for assuming the whole world has Internet access, especially with the large numbers of people active on social media. However, only about a third or the globe’s population has Internet access and adoption is growing at a mere 9 percent. Zuckerberg explains the situation in a paper titled “Is Connectivity A Human Right?:”

“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.”

In the road map for Internet.org, Zuckerberg says the partnership’s initial focus will be on:

Affordable access. Here focus will be on ensuring access is affordable for underserved communities through cheaper smartphones and working with mobile operators to expand Web reach.

Efficient data use. Internet.org partners also hope to use more efficient data-compression technologies to bolster network efficiently, enhance data caching and ensure people don’t run up high Internet costs.

Encourage businesses participation to drive access. The partners also plan to create mutually beneficial initiatives for mobile operators, app developer and device OEMs to grow mobile businesses sustainability, help mobile devices support more languages and consequently get more people online.

Criticism

While Internet.org has largely been received warmly, the initiative has not been without its fair share of criticism. Some people have termed it a self-serving business initiative masked by an altruistic veneer. No one can deny global Internet access will benefit Facebook and partners, but one might argue this benefit is not mutually exclusive.Billions of impoverished people without access will also benefit, especially on preojected creation of virtual jobs.

Zuckerberg explains: “I’m focused on this because I believe it is one of the greatest challenges of our generation. The unfair economic reality is that those already on Facebook have way more money than the rest of the world combined, so it may not actually be profitable for us to serve the next few billion people for a very long time, if ever. But we believe everyone deserves to be connected.”

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