Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced the formation of a new partnership with the focus of getting the entire planet online. Internet.org will focus on three key challenges; making access affordable, using data more efficiently, and helping business drive access.
Today, only 2.7 billion people – just over one-third of the world's population -- have access to the internet. Internet adoption is growing by less than 9% each year, which is slow considering how early we are in its development.
The goal of Internet.org is to make internet access available to the two-thirds of the world who are not yet connected, and to bring the same opportunities to everyone that the connected third of the world has today.
The founding members of internet.org -- Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung -- will develop joint projects, share knowledge, and mobilize industry and governments to bring the world online. These founding companies have a long history of working closely with mobile operators and expect them to play leading roles within the initiative, which over time will also include NGOs, academics and experts as well. Internet.org is influenced by the successful Open Compute Project, an industry-wide initiative that has lowered the costs of cloud computing by making hardware designs more efficient and innovative.
Considering the corporations involved this can be described as many things but philanthropy is probably not one of them. This is a market driven exercise aiming at ensuring that profits can be earned from every human on the planet. While this kind of goal is laudable and capable of improving the lives of everyday people, we should be careful to not confuse it with purest ideals of charity.