Examining Facebook’s long-term goals for Internet.org

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One-third of the world’s population has access to the Internet and two-thirds of the world does not. That’s about 5 billion people on Earth who are without Internet access. Facebook and its partners are planning to change that with Internet.org.

It is a lofty goal, and one that seems to make a ton of sense. You’ve heard the spiel. Today, the global economy functions in a huge way on the web. Online business, trade, sales, communication and marketing efforts take up a gigantic portion of large and small business models alike. Experts agree; the importance of the Internet in business is only going to grow in the coming years.

And that’s not all. Aside from business, the Internet is home to much of the education and entertainment the world’s population consumes on a daily basis. With new subscription options to stream content online, the traditional pay-tv model may be on its way out.

[contextly_sidebar id="f401dccdb322b122b0ade241324d4b04"]Communication and socialization efforts, namely by companies like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, make it easy for people to connect anywhere, anytime. At least for one-third of the world’s population. For most of its existence, the Internet has been seen as a luxury of the developed world.

Facebook and other services have been available in the United States and Europe since their advent. Advanced fiber-optic and other high-speed Internet technology, like those provided by Verizon Internet services, have aided Facebook’s growth in the U.S and other parts of the developed world.

However, with its ever-increasing importance in commerce and society, many industry leaders are beginning to see the web as an integral asset to growth in all parts of the world. One of the most vocal of those leaders, Facebook’s CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg, postulates in his white paper that the Internet isn’t a luxury, after all.

It’s a human right.

So, what’s the plan?

Facebook has partnered with major tech giants Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera, Samsung, Nokia and Qualcomm to begin the conversation about how to bring the Internet to underserved parts of the world. As Internet.org, these partners will share “tools, resources and best practices… [to] explore solutions in three major opportunity areas: affordability, efficiency, and business models.”

To achieve the desired effects in these three opportunity areas, Internet.org has set a few long-term goals.

Deliver more affordable, or even free, data

As it currently stands, delivering data is 100 times too expensive to extend the benefits of Internet access to the disconnected two-thirds. It is nothing for mobile operators to spend billions of dollars extending networks or building out new ones. These networks give users access to the data they need to get online on their smartphones or mobile devices.

These billions, according to Zuckerberg in “Is Connectivity a Human Right,” drive the high costs consumers get stuck with for the convenience of data plans. In order to make data plans affordable for the disconnected two-thirds, Internet.org plans to urge mobile operators to innovate more efficient networks that deliver more data at a lower cost to the operators.

Some of Zuckerberg’s ideas include reallocating spectrum to cut high bidding costs, network extension technology and new technology that stores data inside operators’ centers to make it faster and cheaper to deliver.

Use data more efficiently 

Not only does Internet.org want to make it easier and more affordable for mobile operators to deliver data, the organization hopes to decrease the amount of data apps and Internet services used. In developing countries where Internet.org hopes to extend Internet access, customers buy data on a pre-paid model. That’s because it is inefficient for operators to provide unlimited data in these areas.

Internet.org aims to work with partners to find more efficient ways to use data. Innovations would include caching systems so that data amounts can be kept up with, data compression for apps and other Internet services and utilization of data sharing and shared downloads between nearby phones. Facebook has already implemented a few of these approaches.

Facebook for Every Phone, which provides a less data-heavy version of Facebook for feature phones, uses data caching to make sure data is delivered in the most efficient way possible.

Find a common goal

One of Internet.org’s biggest points is that no one person or company could ever pull off a feat as large and unique as extending Internet access to the 5 or so billion people currently without it. And, says Zuckerberg in his white paper, technological improvements alone won’t cut it. “There are also social and cultural issues that are necessary to overcome.”

According to Zuckerberg, it will take an alignment of incentives amongst the customers who find new uses for the Internet, the phone makers who make better phones and the mobile operators who strive for more customers and more profits at every turn.

To achieve this alignment, Internet.org hopes to incorporate several models. The first idea is called “Zero-rating data.” Facebook already incorporates this model and holds that it “increases both phone sales profits and data plan profits.”

Internet.org also hopes to help build “credit and identity infrastructure[s]” in developing nations. This way, customers will be able to access the more traditional post-paid data models and become more valuable customers to mobile operators.

It will be good for everyone

Zuckerberg’s white paper is eager to note how the implementation of Internet.org’s goals will be good for everyone. The 5 billion disconnected will gain access to the Internet and the growth potential it provides. Mobile operators will have more customers. Phone manufacturers will have more customers and more opportunities to continue improving phone technology.

And maybe most importantly to Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, Internet services will gain more users and more connection potential for marketing and advertising. 

SamMeltonArticle by Sam Melton. Sam focuses on all things Internet. Visit sammeltontalks.blogspot.com to see more of Sam’s work and ask him about his beard. 

Top image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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