Technology giants Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung have launched a partnership to make internet access available to “the next 5 billion people” who currently lack reliable access.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, announced the new venture, which is called internet.org. "There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy,” Zuckerberg said. “Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it.”
Today, only 2.7 billion people, or just over one third of the world's population, have access to the internet. Internet adoption is growing by less than 9% each year, which is slow considering the early stage of its development.
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.
The founding members of internet.org will develop joint projects, share knowledge, and mobilise industry and governments to bring the world online. These founding companies have a long history of working closely with mobile operators and expect them to play leading roles within the initiative, which over time will also include NGOs, academics and experts.
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internet.org will focus on reducing the cost of internet access, using data more efficiently and helping other companies to drive internet access.
Potential projects include collaborations to develop lower cost, higher quality smartphones and partnerships to more deploy internet access in underserved communities. Mobile operators will play a central role in this effort by driving initiatives that benefit the entire ecosystem.
The partners will also invest in tools that reduce the amount of data required to use most apps. This could include data compression tools and systems to cache data efficiently.
internet.org will support the development of sustainable new business models and services that make it easier for people to access the internet. This includes testing new models that align incentives for mobile operators, device manufacturers, developers and other businesses to provide more affordable access than has previously been possible.
Other efforts will focus on localising services –working with operating system providers and other partners to enable more languages on mobile devices.
“This new initiative has big potential to help accelerate access to the Internet for everyone,” said JK Shin, CEO and president of the IT & Mobile Communications Division at Samsung Electronics.
Click here to read Mark Zuckerberg's full statement on the initiative.