Apr24

Internet.org By Facebook: Good Deed Or Too Far?

Posted by Kelly Kirkham

Read the stories of the two-thirds of the world still without internet connection and what Facebook wants to do about it at Internet.org…

A few years ago Facebook asked the world if “Connectivity is a human right” in this white paper. Bringing us an idea to connect the world to the internet. In 2013, Facebook developed Internet.org as a non-profit determined to bring connectivity to every corner of the globe to provide every individual the power of knowledge.

The internet is the backbone of the knowledge economy. – Mark Zuckerberg

To American citizens the internet is just something that is all around us, all the time. It is classified as a free service because once we access it (or pay the internet service provider) there are no limits as to what we can explore. But for a large portion of our globe this is not the case. Two-thirds of the world lack the access to the internet due to poverty, location or lack of the general infrastructure needed.

Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook have set out to bring connectivity to every corner of the globe with help from Qualcomm, Samsung, Ericsson, Nokia, MediaTech, Opera and many others.

Since 2013 Internet.org has launched services in six different countries: Kenya, Colombia, Ghana, India, Zambia and Tanzania and 2015 goals outline plans to launch in an additional 94 countries. Recent drone launches from Internet.org have been making headlines as the world watches the internet spread across our globe.

Countries who receive internet access sponsored by Internet.org will be able to use a select group of apps including Facebook (of course), Wikipedia, news organizations and theBBC, along with other influential sites, depending on the individual country.

But there’s a catch. Barely a day goes by that Facebook isn’t mentioned in the news, but as of late some headlines haven’t been quite so optimistic. Heavy concerns about privacy and the mental health aspects of Facebook have taken center stage. The European Union (EU) recently filed a class action lawsuit against Facebook for “participation in the NSA’s PRISM dragnet surveillance program” as well as for other alleged data violations that break EU laws.

This has caused many to ask if Facebook providing internet access to countries shouldn’t be seen as a somewhat evil plot to take over the world (if it is, it’s genius and it might just work) rather than a humanitarian effort. Most of the companies involved to stand to make a considerable amount of money if their readership skyrockets, ad sales increase or if the smartphones used to access the internet are their own products. It can’t be seen as too much of a coincidence that just months after Internet.org is launched in India Samsung is launching major campaigns in the same country. The countries targeted by Internet.org are also seen as major emerging markets and represent major business once connected to the web. India is currently home to 1.2 billion people and according to Statistica.com, only 20% of India’s inhabitants currently own a smartphone. That leaves almost a billion potential customers for businesses like Nokia and Samsung to recruit.

The same can be said for Facebook, only 100 million people in India use Facebook on a regular basis. It is understandable that Facebook would be interested in providing access to the remaining 1.1 billion future Facebook users. This post says claims that each user is worth about $4.84 to Facebook and considering that 70% of Americans currently use Facebook. This calculates to a potential revenue for Facebook of over $3 billion dollars per year from India alone. That’s not chump change folks…

Although the whole thing sounds somewhat like a conspiracy theorists dream come true, if Facebook isn’t planning world domination it can definitely be said that no good deed goes unpunished. This still leaves many questions like should the companies be able to call their endeavour non-profit when so much potential business is involved? Or are these companies really banding together for the good of our world?

*Update: Recent news reports that Facebook gained the rights to i.org from Project 94. Read more about the single-letter domain industry here.

What are your thoughts about Internet.org? Should the world be cautious?

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