The Internet is the single greatest invention in the history of mankind. It has the power to change how we see the world by exposing us to different ideas and cultures without ever leaving our home. It's that transformative power that makes the Internet so special, and why it's imperative that more people get connected. Unfortunately, there are a few roadblocks standing in the way of that.
Mark Zuckerberg announced today a new initiative called Internet.org that aims to tear down the roadblocks that prevent 5 billion people from gaining access to the Internet. He's working with MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung to help develop new ideas and business models that will make it affordable for everybody all over the world to connect to the Internet and start sharing with the world.
"Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect," Zuckerberg said. "There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy. 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."
So, how will Facebook and its allies achieve such a lofty goal? In a document penned by Zuckerberg, he proposes a three pronged approach to making Internet access more accessible and affordable to all:
To make Internet access more affordable, he proposes that we continue investing in new technologies, like network extension technology, that make it easier to transmit data signals without increasing the cost. Right now, it costs far too much money for people in undeveloped countries to use data plans with their smartphones. With this technology, it could finally become cheap enough for everybody with a smartphone to access the Internet.
Zuckerberg also points to the Open Compute Project and the upcoming white space spectrum auction as initiatives that could very well drive down the price of data delivery by standardizing how we deliver data.
Of course, affordable Internet access means little when our apps still use way too much data. To that end, Zuckerberg calls on the development community to come up with news way to make apps more efficient. He hopes to do this through data caching, data compression and efficiency optimization.
Finally, Zuckerberg addresses the final roadblock on the way to making Internet access available and affordable to all - businesses and governments. That's why Facebook has partnered with some of the biggest names in Internet technology, like Opera, Qualcomm an MediaTek, to "develop joint projects, share knowledge and mobilize industry and governments to bring the world online." One of those projects is the zero-rating data model which allows Internet companies to deliver free data to customers when using Facebook.
In short, Internet.org is by far the most ambitious plan yet (Project Loon notwithstanding) to get the rest of the world connected. It may also have an effect on current markets by driving down prices and improving access to those in developed nations who still can't get anything but the most basic of services.