July 13, 2014

Internet.org: Making Internet Access Available to the Next Five Billion People for Free

In the previous post, I talk about new efforts by technology companies across a variety of sectors to bridge the digital divide by connecting billions of people whom have no access to internet-based communication services. I highlighted Mark Zuckerberg's, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Facebook, keynote appearance at Mobile World Congress 2014, which focused on connecting billions of people in emerging markets to the Internet by offering basic connectivity for free. "Why are the next two billion not on the internet?" he asked. "The reason is not because they don't have any money, it's because they don't know the value of having a data plan or the services they can access." There is an intrinsic value to having people worldwide connected to the internet and this blog post will discuss Internet.org in greater detail including specific efforts the organization is undertaking to connect billions of people to the internet.

According to its website, Internet.org, which was launched in 2013, "is a global partnership between technology leaders, nonprofits, local communities and experts who are working together to bring the internet to the two thirds of the world's population that doesn't have it." Possessing the goal of making internet access available to the next five billion people for free, Internet.org's founding members include Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung. The organization will explore solutions in three major opportunity areas: affordability, efficiency and business models.

With respect to affordability, "Internet.org partners will join forces to develop technology that decreases the cost of delivering data to people worldwide, and helps expand internet access in underserved communities." On efficiency, "Transmitting data—even a text message or a simple web page—requires bandwidth, something that's scarce in many parts of the world. Partners will invest in tools and software to improve data compression capabilities and make data networks and services run more efficiently." And I agree with the organization's outline on business models: "Connecting billions of people will be a massive global effort that requires ongoing innovation." Internet.org explains that "developers, mobile operators and device manufacturers will work together to introduce business models that give people more ways to go online."

The Internet.org Innovation Lab was launched earlier this year, which is a collaboration between Ericsson and Facebook that will provide developers with the ability to test their apps in real world environments at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. In a press release dated February 24, 2014, Stockholm, Sweden-based Ericsson said, "The lab will help remove one of the key physical barriers that exist for bringing the Internet to everyone. Developers today typically only have access to the network environment of their physical location." Furthermore, "With consumers today operating in different network environments (2G, 3G, 4G, WiFi) on multiple mobile operating systems and a wide range of devices, the complexity involved for developers can be overwhelming. The joint innovation lab will facilitate multiple network environments for testing and optimization, all in one location."

Once the remaining five billion people are able to connect to the internet, they will have access to value-added services that will assist individuals with learning or improving English language skills; educate individuals on health, sanitation, well-being and preventable diseases; provide farmers with critical and timely information on best practices, pricing, and weather; and facilitate the growth and development of small and medium-sized enterprises.

In this video produced by Internet.org, Mr. Zuckerberg explains the plan to make basic internet services affordable so everyone with a phone can join the knowledge economy:


Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

March 4, 2014

2014 Mobile World Congress: Connecting Emerging Economies to the Mobile Internet

Attracting more than 85,000 visitors from 201 countries, the 2014 GSMA Mobile World Congress (MWC14) took place in Barcelona, Spain from Feb. 24-27, 2014. As outlined in a GSMA press release, "The four-day conference and exhibition attracted executives from the world's largest and most influential mobile operators, software companies, equipment providers, Internet companies and companies from industry sectors such as automotive, finance and healthcare, as well as government delegations from across the globe." While several themes were addressed at MWC14, this was the first year the mobile phone use and Internet connectivity in emerging economies and developing countries was a significant focus at a Mobile World Congress.

Low-cost smartphones designed specifically for emerging economies was a significant theme at MWC14. While they may not have the high-quality components installed (e.g., processors or displays), these smartphones will allow people in emerging economies to access the Internet via mobile broadband connectivity. Supporting this theme, U.S.-based Mozilla said it will launch a US$25 smartphone running its Firefox OS. Mozilla's press release said the SC6821 "redefines the entry level for smartphones in key growth markets."

Mozilla also announced that its "Firefox OS will be expanding into important new markets in 2014. Telef√≥nica will build on the list of countries where it's selling Firefox OS phones, with eight more launching this year: Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama. Deutsche Telekom will also add four new markets: Croatia, the Czech Republic, Macedonia and Montenegro." Importantly for app and web-content developers like ROI3, Inc., "Firefox OS devices are the first devices built entirely to open Web standards, with every feature developed as an HTML5 application."

In his keynote appearance, Mark Zuckerberg, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Facebook, talked about connecting billions of people in emerging markets to the Internet by offering basic connectivity for free. "Why are the next two billion not on the internet?" he asked. "The reason is not because they don't have any money, it's because they don't know the value of having a data plan or the services they can access."

Photo: Mobile World Live
Launched in August 2013, Internet.org is a global partnership, whose founding members include Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung, possessing the goal of making internet access available to the next five billion people for free. Referencing the aim of Internet.org during his keynote, Mr. Zuckerberg said, "Only 2.7 billion people have access to the Internet and it's growing more slowly than you think. The main cost is not the smartphone; it's the cost of the data access. We are really not on a path at this point to connect everyone in the world." He suggests that connecting billions to the Internet for free can be achieved within 5-10 years in two ways: (1) significantly reducing network costs to deliver data and (2) building more efficient applications to reduce data usage.

During MWC14, GSMA and Facebook, through its Internet.org partnership, announced "a joint initiative designed to connect the billions of men and women globally that currently have no access to Internet-based communications services." The press release further explains, "The joint initiative will focus on reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of mobile, given that mobile will be the enabling technology for the vast majority of people in developing markets." Moreover, "The activities undertaken by the GSMA and Facebook will entail working with governments in developing markets to address key factors that have an impact on affordability and availability."

With a focus on developing mLearning apps and web-content optimized for mobile phones and tablets for people in emerging economies and developing countries, it is very encouraging to see a focus on broadening Internet connectivity worldwide at MWC14. I agree with Mr. Zuckerberg when he said, "[Internet access] is really important, because connectivity is not an end in itself. It's what connectivity can bring."

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

March 2, 2014

Health, Wearables, and Mobile Shine at 2014 International CES

150,000 industry professionals, including more than 35,000 from outside the United States, attended the 2014 International CES from January 7-10, 2014. In a press release, Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of Consumer Electronics Association, which owns and produces CES, said, "This year's show was an energizing display of where the future is headed, bringing to life cool new products from every industry that touches technology. One-third of the world’s population interacted with CES in some way this week as we experienced the future. From curved and flexible Ultra HD TVs and next generation smart phones to drones, robots, sensors, the Internet of Everything, Hi-Res audio, connected cars and 3D printers, it seems like the only thing missing from the 2014 CES was a time-travel machine." Here are some of my observations attending the event in Las Vegas, Nev.

Several companies exhibited their digital health and fitness, and wearable technology products and services, some of which are highlighted in these videos: "Digital Health & Fitness Highlights: 2014 CES" and "Wearable Tech Highlights: 2014 CES." I saw the Kolibree Smart Toothbrush, LG Lifeband Touch fitness activity monitor, Reebok CrossCheck, and Sleep Number X12 Smart Bed. I even witnessed Shaquille O'neal checking out the Fitbit booth. While an increasingly crowded sector, I do not have any doubts that fitness and wearable technology will grow rapidly in the coming years as people seek to monitor their health and daily activity.

Specifically to mobile technology, I saw the latest smartphones and tablets that will be available to consumers in 2014 including the Huawei Ascend Mate2, 4G Lenovo ThinkPad 8, and Samsung Galaxy NotePRO 12.2. This year's devices possess faster processors and higher quality screens. Moreover, NVIDIA unveiled the Tegra K1 mobile processor, which, for the first time, next-generation PC gaming will now be available on mobile platforms. These developments will allow app and web-content developers like ROI3, Inc. to produce an experience for consumers on their mobile devices that they already experience via personal computers. Here is a video that provides highlights from the mobile tech sector at CES.



I also attended the second annual CEA MoDev Hackathon that featured nearly 100 developers competing individually and as teams for up to $100,000 in cash and prizes. As explained in this press release, "Apps were awarded for innovative integration with Microsoft, Amazon, Samsung, Sony and Modev." Furthermore, "App Projects from Travel Channel Cities Metro, Travel Offers, Travel Swipe, Travel Channel Navigator and Travel Live were awarded top honors. The Journey Live app was selected as the grand prize winner."

Lastly, the Mobile Apps Showdown competition featured four-minute elevator-pitch-style presentations from 10 semifinalist app developers selected ahead of time by a team of expert panelists and Living in Digital Times readers. Password Box, an innovative, free password manager, with secure digital wallet features for your iPhone, iPad and desktop devices, won the top showdown prize. Ballerz, an iOS app that helps players find pickup basketball games in their area based on skill level, was the online showdown winner. A group of active duty naval officers who found that playing sports reduced stress and boosted morale on the base developed Ballerz.

Aaron Rose serves as President and CEO of ROI3, Inc., a Seattle, Wash.-based company that empowers people in emerging economies through innovative, technology-based solutions. He is also the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

February 3, 2014

Hackathon Where Wearables and Gaming Come Together

Photo of Alex Donn: AT&T Mobility
While writing my previous post about the 2014 AT&T Developer Summit, I located my notes from the AT&T | SIC Mobile App Hackathon - Wearables event that I attended on October 26-27, 2013 in Seattle, Wash. Focused on wearables and gaming apps, I attended this event to learn what great ideas people are generating that can help live a healthier lifestyle or overcome physical or mental ailments. Many of the apps produced complement the mHealth app that my colleagues and I are developing that provides health and wellness information to people with mobile devices in emerging economies. While Alex Donn, Developer Evangelist at AT&T Mobility, wrote a summary of the event on the AT&T Developer Blog, there are a couple of items worth mentioning in this post.

18 teams presented during the hackathon, which produced five finalists that made subsequent presentations for prizes at the Seattle Interactive Conference on October 29, 2013. While not among the top three winners, I was impressed with the SmartChair, which allows a user to monitor the time he or has is sitting and notifies the user when it is time to take a break. Too many people, myself included, spend long hours sitting at a desk for long periods of time. We get focused on completing our tasks and fail to take breaks that are good for mental and physical well being. A device like SmartChair will result in a healthier working environment, which will produce fewer health issues and a reduction of medical costs.

I also appreciated the app produced by GoalPhysics that provides "breakthrough performance through big data, not drugs." Winning third third place overall, this app collects large amounts of data from athletes wearing apparel with integrated sensors. Not only does this app provide a competitive edge for professional athletes where hundredths of a second could separate a winner from a tenth place finisher, but the recreational athlete may benefit from collecting large amounts of their performance data, in real-time, during exercise routines to learn areas of strengths and weaknesses.

A video of the presentations of the five finalists may be viewed through this link or the video embedded below (GoalPhysics is the first presenting team):



Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

January 31, 2014

2014 AT&T Developer Summit

I attended the AT&T Developer Summit from January 4-6, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nev. The three-day event consisted of a mobile app hackathon, executive panels, and speaking sessions. This was my second year attending the AT&T event, which I find valuable in meeting developers and technology entrepreneurs, as well as learning about the latest trends in mobile technology.

With cash and prizes totaling over $200,000, more than 100 teams developed an app during the hackathon. Participants at this year's hackathon were able to choose between a Wearables Track and an AT&T API Track. You can read about the winning teams at this link on the AT&T Developer Blog.

25 panels and speaking sessions were scheduled during this year's conference. I particularly found value in attending "Let’s Drop the 'Mobile' from Web Development" by Doug Sillars, Performance/Optimization Lead, Developer Advocacy at AT&T. Noting that "with a plethora of platforms and buckets of browsers (each contributing a variety of versions), displaying content uniformly can be a challenge. The growth of mobile devices has exponentially expanded the landscape (and additionally added a sundry of screen sizes). Is developing separate experiences for mobile and desktop users really the best way to reach your users?" With a greater percentage of people accessing the Internet through mobile devices, Dr. Sillars presented a question that many developers ask: Is developing separate experiences for mobile and desktop users really the best way to reach your users?

In his presentation, Dr. Sillars explained, "There is no more 'Mobile Web', it is all just 'The Web' on different screens." He noted that greater than 50 percent of Amazon.com's customers shopped via a mobile device mobile during the 2013 holiday season and in September 2013, the number mobile unique visitors equalled those accessing ESPN.com on a desktop. Furthermore, Dr. Sillars said page size and speed index are essential to keeping customers engaged with your site. An ideal website accessed through a mobile device should upload in less than three seconds.

Another presentation worth discussing in this post is "Building an Amazing Mobile Experience for Multiple Devices" by Lotus Chen, Chief Technology Officer of Taiwan based-ASUS. Noting that Android is the world's most popular mobile operating system during his presentation, Mr. Chen said mobile content developers are facing an increasing challenge of developing content with a consistent user interface (UI) design given that Android powers many different device types with different screen sizes and form factors, ranging from small-size phones, mid-size tablets, to large television sets.

With respect to supporting different screen sizes, Mr. Chen recommends optimizing the layout by providing different layout resources for different screen sizes. On larger devices, he says create compound views to take advantage of extra screen real estate, so you can display more content and ease navigation. Moreover, Android scales the drawable resources based on screen density. To ensure the app screen looks presentable, Mr. Chen suggests using different version of resources need to be available for different screen densities.

I enjoyed the experience of attending the 2014 AT&T Developer Summit where I met some interesting people developing great apps. I also learned new content development and product monetization ideas, which I will incorporate into the business strategy of ROI3, Inc. There is no question that the world is accessing the Internet via mobile devices. Company's that are able to develop content optimized for mobile devices will gain a competitive edge.

Aaron Rose serves as President and CEO of ROI3, Inc., a Seattle, Wash.-based company that empowers people in emerging economies through innovative, technology-based solutions. He is also the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.