More than 1 billion households are without Internet access, according to the World Bank. Of those households, 90 percent are in developing countries. In the United States, Internet download speeds reach upward of 500Mbps thanks to fiber-optic networks like Google’s Fiber Project and Verizon’s FIOS Internet.
But two thirds of the world doesn’t even have access to the Internet. That’s where Facebook Founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his project - Internet.org - comes in. Mr. Zuckerberg is working with technology firms to help bridge the digital gap.
“We want to make it so that anyone, anywhere – a child growing up in rural India who never had a computer – can go to a store, get a phone, get online, and get access to all of the same things that you and I appreciate about the Internet,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
He continued: “They’re going to use it to decide what kind of government they want, get access to healthcare for the first time ever, connect with family hundreds of miles away that they haven’t seen in decades.”
So, how is Zuck going to do it? In this case, mobile Internet access through cellphones. One way to make Internet access available to people who can’t afford it or in areas where it isn’t available is with mobile phones. They intend to simplify phone applications, making them run better which in turn will let networks transmit more data using less battery.
Joining Mr. Zuckerberg in his effort to bring Internet to Internet-less areas are: Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, and Qualcomm. These partners and leaders will invest resources into software, develop technology and introduce business models to give people more ways to get Internet access.
By the numbers
The World in 2013 report from the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union sheds some light on some pretty telling statistics: 61% of America’s households are online. Compare that to only one third of online households in Asia, the Pacific and the Arab States.
Across the globe, 41% of homes are connected to the Internet (around 750 million households). Internet access varies by gender. In the ‘developing countries’ women use the Internet 16% less than men, while in the ‘developed countries’ the gap is only 2%.
Mobile-broadband subscriptions have doubled in since 2011 years to 1.16 billion subscriptions (in developing countries). While Zuckerberg and company are trying to expand Internet access to different areas of the world, on the other end of the spectrum, fiber-optic Internet providers are just trying to expand their networks in the U.S.
Even though fiber optics is the world’s fastest Internet technology, it’s also the hardest to expand. But – if you are lucky enough to live in a fiber area – you get to take advantage of the fastest Internet speeds to date.
Google Inc., for example, is already sending balloons with radio antennas into the stratosphere as part of a project called “Loon” aimed at connecting people without Internet access.
Alcatel-Lucent is bringing its inexpensive lightRadio technology to small villages without cell towers. And phone manufacturers are racing to develop smartphones that cost less than $15 – a goal that even top-tier smartphone makers such as Nokia, Samsung and BlackBerry are working diligently to reach.
So, how much will it cost? Zuckerberg says he’s already invested more than $1 billion in his mission to get people connected, and he’s “hoping to do a lot more.” The key to the effort will be mobile, which is a big part of Facebook’s growth strategy.
However, Mr. Zuckerberg said that this project is not about money: “If we really just wanted to focus on making money, the first billion people who are already on Facebook have way more money than the next five or six billion people combined.”
He continued: “It’s not fair, but it’s the way that it is. And, we just believe that everyone deserves to be connected, and on the Internet, so we’re putting a lot of energy towards this.”
Article written by Samuel Melton. Connect with Samuel and see more of his work on his site: sammeltontalks.blogspot.com