Thanks UN, but you are too late. Facebook’s already handling it!
If you still believe that governmental bodies will be the drivers of societal and infrastructural change, your perception might not be up to date. In the past, several organizations such as local governments or supra-national bodies such as the UN have been seen as responsible to intervene in global issues. However businesses are nowadays proving to be entities driving important societal and infrastructural changes, both at a local and international level. Businesses are increasingly “fixing” institutional voids in emerging economies where public bodies have not tackled these problems efficiently. An example of this would be Facebook’s initiative to make world-wide internet access available.
Through its initiative Internet.org, the idea is to enable collaboration within the tech industry through partnership focused on challenging the great barriers developing countries face in terms of internet access, which Zuckerberg himself has outlined as a human right. Their offering pursues to make this access a 100 times more affordable, through a twofold strategy: reducing both the cost and the amount of data, two pillars in which Facebook believes it is able to successfully perform. Moreover, the task will not be addressed by Facebook alone; by collaborating with important players in today’s tech industry, the Internet.org partnership aids to get the best knowledge for the task possible. Additional partners participating in the initiative include Sony-Ericsson, Samsung, MediaTek, Qualcomm, Samsung and Eutelsat.
Whether Facebook’s intentions are altruistic, or it merely aims to give 5 billion people access to its internet jewel, the end result is the same. While in the first world we constantly praise the wonders and progress brought about by the internet, the truth is that two thirds of the world are still not connected to it. As our economic focus switches from resource-based to knowledge-based, the internet provides the backbone allowing global sharing of ideas and information. And the simple truth is that no public body is as able as one of today’s tech giants to tackle this issue. Facebook has the tools, the means, and more importantly the knowledge necessary to undertake this task. Earlier this month, for instance, Zuckerberg stated that for the past year, Facbeook has been looking into aircrafts and satellite technology to develop solutions which would enable “beaming access down to communities from the sky”. In addition, 100 million users (mostly in developing countries) already benefit from its “Facebook Zero: Facebook for every phone” initiative. If this is its reach independently, what they will be able to achieve through a partnership surely looks promising.
It seems that the new heroes of today’s societies may not be in the public, but in the private sector. In an era where knowledge and information sharing are drivers of economic growth, Facebook and other partners in the Internet.org initiative have certainly undertaken a highly relevant yet challenging task. Will they succeed in switching the two offline thirds of the world online?
(Representation of Global Internet usage: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Internet_usage)
Finley, K 2015, Facebook looks to space to bring the internet everywhere, Wired, 05 October, viewed 6 October 2015, <http://www.wired.com/2015/10/facebook-looks-space-bring-internet-everywhere/>.
Internet.org by facebook n.d., Internet.org, viewed 6 October 2015, <https://internet.org/>.
Russel, J 2015, Facebook and telecom partners launch Internet.org to drive universal, global internet access, The Next Web News, 21 August, viewed 6 October 2015, <http://thenextweb.com/facebook/2013/08/21/facebook-and-telecom-partners-launch-internet-org-to-drive-universal-global-internet-access/>.