Larry Magid: Facebook Plan To Bring Internet To Everyone Is Viable
MENLO PARK (KCBS)— Facebook wants to get more of the world’s more than 7 billion people — all of them, actually — online through a partnership with some of the world’s largest mobile technology companies. Facebook Inc. Wednesday announced a partnership called Internet.org.
In addition to the world’s biggest online social network, the group also includes Korean electronics giant Samsung, Finnish handset maker Nokia and wireless chip maker Qualcomm.
Only 2.7 billion people have internet access which is only about a one-third of the world’s population—clearly not enough for Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. And while he’s obviously concerned about expanding the market for Facebook, he also makes the case that Internet access is a human right. It’s something that all people should have that we need to find ways to accomplish this.
Zuckerberg is expressing humanistic values here and is working with smartphone makers to try to get less expensive phones in the developing world where people can get can internet access. These people are not likely to have PCs or tablets but smartphones are a different story.
I have been to remote parts of Africa where I’ve seen people using smartphones in places where you would normally never have regular broadband, so I think that is the future in the developing world and Zuckerberg wants to be there.
Now cynics might argue that this is just another ploy for Zuckerberg to make more friends on Facebook and that may be partly true. But he makes a good point that the people who already use Facebook have more money than the rest of the money combined. So from a profitability standpoint, I’m not so sure that Facebook is going to make a lot of money by connecting the people who are now unconnected.
This something that is very much in Zuckerberg’s DNA. He may be driven by money but I know this guy and think he is also driven by really wanting to have as many people connected as possible—that it is a vision of his. This partnership is a way of making it come true.
So it is viable plan? Yes, I think mobile is viable. Google has an idea of placing balloons high in the atmosphere to beam internet down to the surface. But mobile is practical because there are remote places in the developing world—where there is no available electricity (I don’t even how they charge their batteries)—and people are using mobile phones.
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