In an audacious effort to unite the world online, Mark Zuckerberg has requested five billion new friends on Facebook through his new initiative Internet.org.
Designed to expand global internet access, the CEO has launched internet.org, in unison with tech partner Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung.
"There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy," Zuckerberg says.
"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."
"Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect."
Today, 2.7 billion people, just over one-third of the world's population, have online access, with internet adoption growing by less than 9% each year - growth Zuckerberg believes to be slow.
Essentially, the goal of Internet.org is to make internet access available to the people in the world who are not yet connected, and to bring the same opportunities to everyone that the connected third of the world has today.
Zuckerberg says the founding companies have a long history of working closely with mobile operators, expecting them to play leading roles within the initiative, which over time will also include NGOs, academics and experts as well.
Internet.org will focus on three key challenges in developing countries:
Making access affordable:
Partners will collaborate to develop and adopt technologies that make mobile connectivity more affordable and decrease the cost of delivering data to people worldwide.
Potential projects include collaborations to develop lower-cost, higher-quality smartphones and partnerships to more broadly deploy internet access in underserved communities.
Mobile operators will play a central role in this effort by driving initiatives that benefit the entire ecosystem.
Using data more efficiently:
Partners will invest in tools that dramatically reduce the amount of data required to use most apps and internet experiences.
Potential projects include developing data compression tools, enhancing network capabilities to more efficiently handle data, building systems to cache data efficiently and creating frameworks for apps to reduce data usage.
Helping businesses drive access:
Partners will support development of sustainable new business models and services that make it easier for people to access the internet.
This includes testing new models that align incentives for mobile operators, device manufacturers, developers and other businesses to provide more affordable access than has previously been possible.
Other efforts will focus on localising services – working with operating system providers and other partners to enable more languages on mobile devices.
By reducing the cost and amount of data required for most apps and enabling new business models, Internet.org is focused on enabling the next five billion people to come online.
“This new initiative has big potential to help accelerate access to the Internet for everyone,” says JK Shin, CEO and President of the IT & Mobile Communications Division, Samsung Electronics.
“We’re focused on delivering high quality mobile devices to ensure that the next five billion people have great mobile Internet experiences.”
"We are committed to shaping the Networked Society – where everyone and everything will be connected in real time; creating the freedom, empowerment and opportunity to transform society," says Hans Vestberg, President and CEO, Ericsson.
"We believe affordable connectivity and internet access improves people's lives and helps build a more sustainable planet and therefore we are excited to participate in the internet.org initiative.”
“MediaTek whole heartedly supports the internet.org initiative," adds MK Tsai, Chairman, MediaTek.
“Global Internet and social media access represent the biggest shift since the industrial revolution, and we want to make it all-inclusive.”
“Nokia is deeply passionate about connecting people – to one another and the world around them,” says Stephen Elop, President and CEO, Nokia.
“Over the years, Nokia has connected well over a billion people.
"Our industry is now at an exciting inflection point where Internet connectivity is becoming more affordable and efficient for consumers while still offering them great experiences. Universal internet access will be the next great industrial revolution.”
The Internet.org website provides an overview of the mission and goals, as well as a full list of the partners.
In the coming weeks, it will feature interviews with technology leaders and experts, along with the latest news on Internet.org activities.