This morning, you will see a lot of headlines displaying the words 'Internet.org.' This is a new venture put forth by a number of major technology companies including Facebook, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm, and Samsung. The point of the new movement is to bring the Internet to parts of the world that do not currently have access.
How much of the world does not have a way to connect to the Internet? The estimate is around two-thirds. Why does it matter that some people on the planet don't have Internet access?
It's all a matter of perspective, really, but the main concern is that these people can't reach out to others; don't have any way to tap into a global view; and aren't part of something that could change their lives. Here's what Internet.org aims to do.
Bringing the Internet to The World
It sounds like an exercise in ego-tourism, really. Pictures of kids in undeveloped countries running and singing and laughing is what you'll see if you check out the Internet.org video (available on the project's site).
Even though there are some definite drawbacks to the Internet (heck, most of us are trying to break away from constant connectivity), there are some benefits as well. Namely, the Internet can help children learn, and bring news and information to the world.
So, the three tech companies mentioned above are working on making the Internet more affordable (through smartphones and other devices); more data efficient (through compression and other methods); and more accessible. Working with companies in various parts of the world, the Internet.org group will make all three of these things happen.
While a seemingly noble effort, all three tech companies stand to benefit from helping developing markets connect to the Internet too. The connected world is highly saturated with new devices and plenty of options, and technology companies like Facebook need to find a new market. The best way to do this is to go to an untapped place where minor roadblocks are in the way of selling devices and services to people.
Bill Gates has criticized other technology companies (namely, Google) for attempting to hide behind the guise of 'charity' while really trying to pad the company's own pockets with untapped dollars. But, you have to see the benefits here too.
Sure, companies like Facebook and Google stand to make some tidy profits from undeveloped countries, but that doesn't mean that the Internet can't be beneficial as well. There are two sides to this coin, for sure.
Now that Facebook, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm, and Samsung have launched Internet.org officially, it will be interesting to see where this project goes. As North Americans are seeking technology retreats, the parts of the world that aren't steeped in sites like Facebook may soon start to become as tech-obsessed as North Americans once were.
Are these companies just looking to cash in? Maybe; but bringing the Internet to those two-thirds is one way to help people in other countries connect to the world.