Facebook and several partners (Facebook, Qualcomm, Ericsson, Samsung, Nokia, Opera, MediaTek) announced the Internet.org initiative in Aug 2013, with the goal of connecting another 5 billion people via affordable or even free Internet access.
- At present, 6 billion people have access to mobile communications.
- Only 2.7 billion people (just over 1/3 of the population) have Internet access.
- 9% is the yearly adoption rate of the Internet — which is considered to be slow.
- Internet.org’s goal is to make Internet access affordable to the other 2/3 of the population not yet connected.
- 1.23 billion people use Facebook (Feb 2014), an increase from the 500 million in 2010, and surpassing one billion users around the start of Oct 2012.
- Even where access is available, mobile devices and cellular plans are currently expensive; content is not in the local language; and sometimes the infrastructure cannot handle increased usage. All are factors limiting Internet access for much of the 5B the initiative is trying to reach.
- The world is become a knowledge economy. So the Internet is important for learning, for staying aware even of tomorrow’s weather, for understanding an illness and being able to seek aid, for finding work, staying in touch with friends across distances, and much more.
- The Internet has to be 100 times more affordable to achieve the goals of the Internet.org initiative.
A Collaborative Effort
Founding members will work on “joint projects, share knowledge, and mobilize industry and governments to bring the world online.” Each of these companies have worked with mobile operators, who in turn are expected to “play leading roles.” Later, NGOs, academics and experts are expected to be involved. These are some of the goals of the initiative:
- Making Internet access affordable: The intent is to develop and offer lower-cost yet high-quality smartphones, and to form partnerships to with mobile operators and others to deploy Internet in communities with no or limited access.
- The former will require building low-cost, open source hardware for more affordable devices. The latter will require building out the infrastructure, using network extension technology to reduce the number of cell towers that need to be built, cleaning up the airwaves to use spectrum more efficiently.
- Using data more efficiently: This includes investment in tools that reduce data requirements for apps, thereby reducing the cost of cellular data service plans. Efforts will involve data compression tools, efficient networks, better data caching.
- Helping businesses drive access: This involves several related goals:
- Developing new business models and services for easier Internet access that are sustainable.
- Aligning incentives for various providers, including mobile operators, device manufacturers, and other businesses while providing more affordable access.
- Local services and enable more languages on devices.
How do you think this internet initiative will positively or negatively affect the world?