It is easy for many to take the internet for granted. Roaming around the city, chatting with friends and staying connected with family using mobile applications is possible only because of internet connectivity. One might argue that the internet comes as a luxury element post healthcare, energy, food, shelter and education. The Internet can help people with communication and decision making. For example, farmers can charge their yields at a reasonable price post referring to market prices on the internet. They can even predict weather and harvest accordingly. Money transfers from people across the city can occur instantaneously. This list never ends. Now the internet giant Facebook is teaming up with a company to provide free internet. Here is why Facebook added Reliance as a friend.

Why Facebook Wants to Provide Free Internet

Back in 2015, Facebook experimented with Free Basics for providing basic internet services to the rural population of the world. However, things did not go according to Facebook’s plan because of the regulatory conditions across telecom sectors in different parts of the world. It violated net neutrality laws. After public consultation, the Indian telecom regulator banned Free Basics. Since then Facebook has been eagerly waiting to do something about it.

There are more than 400 million WhatsApp users in India. Added to this fact, Facebook’s core platform has more Indian users than any other country. However, half of the Indian population is still offline. Facebook wants to target that new user-base.

Reliance’s Jio Initiative

Reliance’s Jio initiative succeeded in doing what Facebook was not able to do. It succeeded in providing mobile phones and the internet at a very low cost. It was able to do so because of the revenue generated from other divisions of the organization and the exorbitant loan that Reliance opted for. This move wiped out the telecom sector foundation in India. Competitors such as Vodafone Idea and Airtel lost millions of customers to the new Jio network.

Internet services and call services were provided by Reliance Jio at free of cost in 2016. This move forced competitors to charge less, which in turn, resulted in the internet revolution. Most of the poor population across India started using mobile phones and the internet. As of December 2019, more than 370 million people across India had subscribed to the Reliance network

How Facebook Added Reliance as a Friend

Facebook’s failure in the past to enter Indian markets with the Free Basics concept taught the company an important lesson. Starting from scratch will not work all the time. Acquiring an existing player was an easy choice at this point. Mark Zuckerberg was intelligent enough to detect Jio’s achievements. Added to this fact, the market capitalization of Reliance was down because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Indian National Rupee was at all-time low-value trading around 76 INR for 1 USD. After recognizing these facts, Facebook acquired 10% of the stake in Reliance India Limited at $5.7 billion. Facebook can leverage Reliance’s data for targeted advertisements. It will realize a significant jump in advertisement revenues from the Indian region.

Benefits of Increased Internet Access

Education is not available to everyone. Fortunately, people from poor backgrounds can get access to quality education through the internet. Poor people can access online education sites like Unacademy, Coursera and edX at free of cost. Added to this fact, people search and apply for jobs mostly through the internet. All jobs are highly interconnected these days. Thus, the internet would certainly provide intangible benefits to the rural population.

Millions of people could come out of poverty because of free internet access. Economic growth, employment and productivity of a country will improve significantly because of the internet access provision. In fact, Internet connectivity can generate $6.7 trillion of the global economy and create new jobs. India is the second-largest market for internet connectivity ranked only below China. It has around 600 million internet users.

Moving Forward

Around 30 million local stores in India were not online yet. Reliance’s latest experiment JioMart is working towards enabling this dream. Local Kirana stores can connect to the entire Indian population through the internet. If WhatsApp pay is leveraged on this occasion, possibilities will become endless. Owing to all these facts, accepting Reliance’s friend request was a strategic move towards achieving Facebook’s dreams.

– NarasingaMoorthy V 

Photo: Flickr

Social Media Fight Global PovertyIn today’s world, social media is a huge part of everyday life for most people. It allows for communication across continents with the simple click of a button. While many believe that social media imposes a negative impact on society, it is undeniable that this new means of communication can lead to extraordinary change. Here are five examples of social media fighting global poverty.

5 Examples of Social Media Fighting Global Poverty

  1. Joshua’s Heart Foundation is an organization using social media to tackle global poverty. Joshua Williams created the organization at the age of 4. By reaching out to his fellow youth through Facebook and Instagram, Joshua and his organization have raised more than $1 million toward ending hunger across the globe. The organization has nearly 12,500 followers on Facebook as well as 2,200 followers on Twitter, proving that a strong social media following allows for the opportunity to make an immense change.
  2. is an online community dedicated to raising awareness and inciting users to fight global poverty. The website encourages Internet users to learn more about extreme poverty on its website. When followers get involved,  they earn real-life rewards such as concert tickets for doing so. In its 10 years of existence, has cultivated a $48.4 billion commitment to aid the world’s poor. The website continues to grow as a social media platform, contributing heavily to the fight against extreme poverty. It aims to bring an end to the issue by 2030.
  3. #TweetsGiving was one of the earliest movements to use a social media website such as Twitter to fight global poverty and raise funds for a good cause. In 2008, the web-based organization Epic Change encouraged Twitter users everywhere to express their thanks. The hashtag “TweetsGiving” soon became the number one trending topic on Twitter. Participating users raised more than $11,000 as a way of honoring what they were grateful for. The money went to building a classroom in Tanzania, which included a wall displaying the Twitter handle of each donor. The #TweetsGiving movement has continued every year since its origin, accumulating more than $100,000 in donations. These donations have resulted in the development of schools, libraries and homes for disabled veterans in Tanzania, Nepal and the U.S.
  4. One Day Without Shoes is an Instagram campaign created by Toms Shoes, a Californian shoe company known for donating a pair of shoes to impoverished children for each pair sold. The campaign uses social media as a platform to fight global poverty by encouraging users to spend a day not wearing shoes. Users take photos documenting their experience and post them to Instagram with the hashtag “WithoutShoes.” It incited a movement that has resulted in people everywhere experiencing firsthand how difficult life can be when lacking an amenity often taken for granted. For every photo posted and tagged #WithoutShoes, Toms Shoes donates a pair of shoes to a child in need. As a result, Tom’s has given 100,000 shoes to youth living in poverty across 10 countries.
  5. #MealForShare was an Instagram trend that Colombian food bank ABACO generated in 2014 to draw attention to Colombia’s poverty issue. ABACO fabricated dozens of Instagram accounts through which the foodbank posted photos with the hashtag #MealForShare to display the devastating reality of poverty in Colombia. The posts featured rotten products as well as food dug out from the trash. Each meal featured in the posts was available for metaphorical purchase, prompting users to donate their chosen amount to ABACO. The trend contributed 185 tons of food to poor populations in Colombia.

From reward-granting websites to trending hashtags, there are countless ways that social media can provoke change when used as a tool for raising awareness. The Internet is now a major part of everyday life for people all over the world. This means everyone has the opportunity to join movements already in existence. They also have the chance to begin their own campaigns against global poverty, changing the world one click at a time.

– Harley Goebel

Photo: Flickr