Currently two-thirds of the world’s population, a staggering 5 billion, live without access to basic internet. A lifestyle difficult to imagine here in the U.S. and other countries that have integrated internet into virtually every aspect of our daily lives. Internet.org, a group of powerful allies, is dedicated to utilizing their combined resources to change this.
Internet.org is an innovative partnership spearheaded by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook,who is committed to reducing the cost of bringing internet access to the world. The plan is to provide universal access to internet by lowering the cost of serving data by tenfold and reducing the amount of data required to run basic apps by the same amount. These major cost reductions are the keys to reducing the cost of internet access 100-fold. This is the amount of cost reduction that would make it possible to for a worldwide internet providing infrastructure to exist and this group is determined that it can be achieved through technological innovation.
According to Internet.org, providing universal internet access is a fundamental step in the struggle for global resource equality. Access power is so valuable today because the internet is “the backbone of the knowledge-based economy.” This statement recognizes the global shift currently taking place since the advent of the internet that is moving society from a mainly resource-based economy to knowledge-based economy. By providing another 5 billion people across the world to the knowledge economy an unprecedented change could take place., driving the economy up, and impacting poverty worldwide.
“The internet’s impact on global growth is rising rapidly. The internet accounted for 21% of GDP growth over the last five years among developed countries… the internet is also a catalyst for job creation,” according to McKinsey & Co. While this kind of economic growth may not be immediate, the plan has potential to stimulate economies worldwide.
In order to achieve this feat, Internet.org is delving into some large-scale innovative projects to combat even larger technological and socal challenges. Some of these include high-altitude, long-endurance planes, satellite systems and even lasers.
The founding members of this group are impressive, including tech giants Ericsson, Mediatek, Opera, Samsung, Nokia and Qualcomm. Looking at this short list of big names, it is not surprising that some have immediately questioned whether there are purely capitalist motives for these companies that are being disguised behind a humanitarian agenda.
However, in Deloitte’s study on the “Value of Connectivity” they found that “expanding internet access in developing countries to levels seen today in developed economies, we could increase productivity by as much as 25 percent, generating $2.2 trillion in GDP and more than 140 million new jobs, lifting 160 million people out of poverty,” while also having the ability to “deliver critical information on nutrition, hygiene and disease prevention. Once connected, people gain access to basic tools like health information, financial services and education that can help them live fuller, better lives and join the worldwide economy.” With the promise of this kind of massive economic benefit in the developing world, many believe that the motives behind this cooperative effort are somewhat irrelevant.
The concern over hidden agendas may provide the project with the high level of visibility both from those who are critical and those who are supportive. Ultimately, time will be what tells us if this project is able to have the kind of success that will drive the change that it expects.
– Leonna Spilman
Photo: La Nacion