Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to bring 5 billion more people online

"No one should have to choose between access to the Internet and food or medicine," reads the Internet.org site.

 

Kris Holt

Internet Culture

Published Aug 21, 2013   Updated Jun 1, 2021, 8:38 am CDT

Forget food and clean water. Mark Zuckerberg wants to bring Internet access to everyone on the planet. And he has a plan to do it.

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The Facebook CEO announced an initiative called Internet.org Tuesday to tackle what he calls “one of the greatest challenges of our generation.”

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His company has teamed up with three phone manufacturers (Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung), two wireless technology firms, and Web browser provider Opera.

The partners are tackling the issue in three ways: making access affordable, making Internet services use data more efficiently, and working with other businesses toward getting people online.

Zuckerberg outlined his “rough plan” in a multi-page document, with a little more detail on the issues Internet.org needs to overcome to achieve its goal. Essentially, cost and infrastructure are the two largest obstacles. But Zuckerberg believes there are ways to drive down the former with industry-wide inititaives to lower the expense of every megabit transmitted over wireless signals.

There’s an obvious benefit to Zuckerberg if the world’s seven billion people are online. More than 1.15 billion people use Facebook each month, almost half the 2.5 billion global Internet users. Considering the fact Facebook banned in several countries including China—a single nation with a market of more than 1 billion—the offline world is pretty much Zuckerberg’s last untapped market.

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However, there are perhaps other issues Zuckerberg et al might want to focus on first, if Twitter reaction is any indication.

Think about this. http://t.co/vWqqUiaoXf wants to bring the Internet to places where there isn’t even enough food. Or clothing. Or water.

— Cyriel (@mindcrash) August 21, 2013

Zuckerberg: People without Internet is one of the ‘greatest challenges’ of my generation. Gates: I’m trying to eradicate Polio and Malaria.

— Jay Yarow (@jyarow) August 21, 2013

“No one should have to choose between access to the Internet and food or medicine,” reads the Internet.org site. That’s a rather obtuse statement. Zuckerberg (and many others) see Internet access as a basic human right. However, large swathes of the populations in areas the group plans to target are without reliable food or water sources. Millions live without electricity, a key issue when Internet-connected devices demand power.

Meanwhile, those who are aware of Facebook’s links to National Security Agency spy programs are skeptical of the initiative’s intentions.

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Has anyone checked that http://t.co/j0zbnk5TN2 isn’t an NSA cover up? https://t.co/tMAtdKbKqL

— Ben Whitelaw (@benwhitelaw) August 21, 2013

Photo via Internet.org/YouTube

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*First Published: Aug 21, 2013, 9:50 am CDT