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.