Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg wants to get all of the world’s 7 billion people online through a partnership with some of the largest mobile technology companies.
He says the Web is an essential part of life, and everyone deserves to be connected, whether they live in Norway, Nicaragua or Namibia.
“The Internet not only connects us to our friends, families and communities, but it is also the foundation of the global knowledge economy,” Zuckerberg wrote in a paper posted to his Facebook page on late on Tuesday. The title asks “Is Connectivity A Human Right?”
To get there, Facebook Inc on Wednesday announced a partnership called Internet.org. It includes the world’s biggest social network, plus South Korean electronics giant Samsung Electronics Co, Finnish handset maker Nokia Oyj and wireless chip maker Qualcomm Inc.
Wireless equipment company Ericsson, Web browser developer Opera Software and MediaTek Inc (聯發科), another wireless semiconductor company, are also founding members of Internet.org.
Google Inc, which is not a part of the Internet.org effort, launched a similar undertaking earlier this year with the goal of getting everyone on Earth online. Called Project Loon, the effort launched Internet-beaming antennas aloft on giant helium balloons.
Facebook said the group’s goal is to “make Internet access available to the two-thirds of the world who are not yet connected” — about 5 billion people.
According to research group Internet World Stats, about 16 percent of Africa’s population is online, compared with 28 percent in Asia, 43 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean and 79 percent in North America.
Facebook has seen a healthy growth of its advertising revenue in recent months, especially on the mobile devices it sees as the Internet’s new frontier.
In its latest quarterly report, it posted the largest revenue gain since late 2011, when it was still a private company.
Internet.org’s plans, still in an early, rough-draft phase, include developing cheaper smartphones and tools that would reduce the amount of data required to run mobile applications.
For Facebook, the move would certainly add more users to its current 1.15 billion and with them more advertising revenue. Still, Zuckerberg paints the effort as something larger.
“For nine years, we’ve been on a mission to connect the world. We now connect more than 1 billion people, but to connect the next 5 billion we must solve a much bigger problem: The vast majority of people don’t have access to the Internet,” Zuckerberg wrote.
He said that the people who already use Facebook “have way more money than the rest of the world combined.”