Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame has announced an initiative to bring Internet access to the roughly two-thirds of humanity (approximately 2.7 billion souls, mostly hailing from developing nations) that isn’t yet online. Internet.org is the name of this initiative, and Facebook’s lassoed in fellow tech giants Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung to help out.
These founding members are to work on joint projects, share knowledge and work to mobilize both industry and governments to help bring the world fully online. Over time, NGOs, academics and other experts will also be pitching in.
The people behind internet.org have identified three key challenges that they need to tackle. First, they need to make access affordable, and to do so they’ll be developing and adopting technologies to make both mobile connectivity and the cost of data delivery cheaper. Some projects they’ll be working on are the development of less expensive yet higher-quality smartphones and partnerships to improve internet access in less well-off communities. (Yes, mobile operators will have a big role to play in this regard.)
Next, the partners will need to work to get everyone to use data more efficiently. To do this, they’ll look into investing in tools to reduce the amount of data most apps and internet experiences require. They say they could do this through developing data compression tools, helping create ways to more efficiently handle data, and so on.
Third, they’ll also have to help businesses drive access. In support of this objective, they’ll support the development of sustainable business models and services to help boost access to the internet, such as testing new models that will make access far more affordable than ever before.
Facebook and Co. are far from the first to announce audacious plans to help bring the rest of the world online – remember Google’s Project Loon? Let’s see how everything works out, or doesn’t, as the case may be.
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