Facebook chief bids to widen global Internet access


WASHINGTON: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg unveiled a campaign last week with global technology giants to connect billions of people worldwide who lack access to the Internet.

The project is entitled Internet.org and its goal is to extend Internet access to five billion people by cutting the cost of smartphone-based Internet services in developing countries.

“There is no guarantee that most people will ever have access to the Internet. It isn’t going to happen by itself,” Zuckerberg, the 29-year-old billionaire founder of the popular social network said in a statement.

“But I believe connectivity is a human right, and that if we work together we can make it a reality.”

Other partners in the project are Finland-based Nokia, Sweden’s Ericsson, Samsung of South Korea, US-based Qualcomm, MediaTek of Taiwan and Norway’s Opera. US-based social networks Twitter and LinkedIn are also due to sign up.

Today some 2.7 billion people, just over a third of the world’s population, have access to the Internet, and the number of new users is growing only slowly each year, organizers said.

“The goal of Internet.org is to make Internet access available to the two-thirds of the world who are not yet connected, and to bring the same opportunities to everyone that the connected third of the world has today,” they said in a statement.

The seven founding partners are going to develop joint projects, share knowledge and mobilize governments and industry to bring the world online.

Specifically, they want to simplify mobile apps to make them more efficient and improve telephone components and networks so they perform better while consuming less energy.

They also want to develop lower-cost, higher-quality smartphones and partnerships to more broadly deploy Internet access in underserved communities.

Zuckerberg insisted in an interview with CNN that the project was not simply aimed at generating more customers.

“If we were just focused on making money, the first billion people we’ve connected have way more money than the rest of the next six billion combined. It’s not fair but it’s the way that it is,” he said.



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