updated 12:14 pm EDT, Wed August 21, 2013
Technology companies working on cheaper Internet access plans
A group of technology companies have grouped together to launch a new initiative to bring Internet access to parts of the global population that do not have it. The collective, consisting of Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm, Samsung and led by Facebook, launched Internet.org and will work together on projects to provide access to those without an Internet connection.
Internet.org will focus on three key challenges for supplying Internet in developing countries. In order to make access affordable, the partners will collaborate on making mobile connectivity cheaper, such as by providing low-cost smartphones. The cost of infrastructure is also a target for affordability, with mobile operators said to provide a central role, as well as the creation of new partnerships to deploy Internet access to areas not currently served.
In a similar vein, the group will work on ways to efficiently use data, by reducing the amount of data needed for app usage and Internet browsing. This is suggested to involve developing data compression tools, network efficiency drives, data caching, and creating low-data frameworks for apps.
The third key challenge the collective faces is to encourage businesses to drive access, by supporting the development of new services and business models relating to Internet access. Incentives to carriers, device manufacturers and other groups are touted, as well as improving localization of software and devices, so that more people can use apps and operating systems in their own language.
"Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect," said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, continuing "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." An accompanying mission statement reveals Facebook has already invested more than $1 billion towards helping developing countries receive Internet access in the last few years, with the Internet.org collective being an extension of that work.
It is believed that just over one-third of the world's population has access to the Internet, a total of around 2.7 billion people. Internet adoption is said to be growing by under 9 percent each year.