The announcement yesterday that Facebook and a consortium of tech companies have set up internet.org to bring Internet to the whole world’s population is interesting. As I discussed in an earlier post, Facebook has for some time introduced various initiatives aimed at bringing Facebook to more people. This is obviously a necessary goal for them given that they already have almost half of the world’s Internet users (1.2bn out of 2.7bn), and they have to continue to show growth from somewhere. And, as mentioned, many users in developing countries who are new to the Internet consider Facebook to be Internet, which is not a bad position to be in (if the day would come, I don’t think Facebook would make the Kleenex/Xerox complaint of saying that their brand has become synonymous with the generic product!)
However, the internet.org initiative is definitely laudable, as it aims to make the access to Internet a human right, as it should be. In today’s world, not having access to the Internet is perhaps not yet as debilitating for a young person as not having access to education or shelter, but it’s definitely a direction we’re moving in. Providing Internet access as aid can be important for sustainable development, as mentioned in the UN.
There are a number of initiatives aimed at increasing connectivity to the Internet for rural and remote areas. The BRCK is a very exciting and innovative product that aims to solve the problem of spotty connectivity in rural areas. Support it on Kickstarter here. This article by Ethan Zuckermann in Wired discusses the BRCK in more detail. As discussed in an earlier post, Google X’s Project Loon is of course also a great initiative in this vein.
The growth of Internet access in the world is currently just under 9%, which is impressive, even if it used to be higher, and hopefully will be with this latest batch of innovations. Since the growth rate of the world’s population is 1.1% and slowly declining, technically the day of Internet access for all could come in less than 15 years. Of course, this won’t happen due to all the factors complicating reaching the remaining 4 billion (not to mention the 2 billion that will be added between now and 2050), but here’s to hoping that it can be done.