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Tech leaders tie up to make Internet access available to all

MENLO PARK, California—Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive officer of Facebook, announced last week the launch of internet.org, a global partnership with the goal of making Internet access available to the next 5 billion people.

“Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect,” Zuckerberg said. “There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy. Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making Internet access available to all those who cannot currently afford it.”

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 percent 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.

In order to achieve its goal of connecting the two-thirds of the world who are not yet online, internet.org will focus on three key challenges in developing countries:

Making access affordable: Partners will collaborate to develop and adopt technologies that make mobile connectivity more affordable and decrease the cost of delivering data to people worldwide. Potential projects include collaborations to develop lower-cost, higher-quality smartphones and partnerships to more broadly deploy internet access in underserved communities. Mobile operators will play a central role in this effort by driving initiatives that benefit the entire ecosystem.

Using data more efficiently: Partners will invest in tools that dramatically reduce the amount of data required to use most apps and internet experiences. Potential projects include developing data compression tools, enhancing network capabilities to more efficiently handle data, building systems to cache data efficiently and creating frameworks for apps to reduce data usage.

Helping businesses drive access: Partners will support development of sustainable new business models and services that make it easier for people to access the internet. This includes testing new models that align incentives for mobile operators, device manufacturers, developers and other businesses to provide more affordable access than has previously been possible. Other efforts will focus on localizing services-working with operating system providers and other partners to enable more languages on mobile devices.

By reducing the cost and amount of data required for most apps, and enabling new business models, internet.org is focused on enabling the next 5 billion people to come online.

Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm, Samsung and other partners will build on existing partnerships while exploring new ways to collaborate to solve these problems.

“For more than 100 years, Ericsson has been enabling communications for all and today more than 6 billion people in the world have access to mobile communications,” Hans Vestberg, president and CEO of Ericsson, said. “We are committed to shaping the networked society—where everyone and everything will be connected in real time; creating the freedom, empowerment and opportunity to transform society. We believe affordable connectivity and internet access improves people’s lives and helps build a more sustainable planet and therefore we are excited to participate in the internet.org initiative.”

“As a world leader in mobile solutions for emerging markets having powered more than 300 million smart devices within two years, MediaTek whole heartedly supports the internet.org initiative.” MK Tsai, chairman of MediaTek said.”Global Internet and social-media access represent the biggest shift since the industrial revolution, and we want to make it all-inclusive.”

“Nokia is deeply passionate about connecting people—to one another and the world around them,” Nokia President and CEO Stephen Elop said. “Over the years, Nokia has connected well over a billion people. Our industry is now at an exciting inflection point where Internet connectivity is becoming more affordable and efficient for consumers while still offering them great experiences. Universal internet access will be the next great industrial revolution.”

“Today more than 300 million people use Opera every month to access the Internet. Tomorrow we have a chance to serve the next 5 billion people connecting on mobile devices in developing countries. It’s in Opera’s DNA to save people time, money and data, and through internet.org we think we can help advance these goals,” Lars Boilesen, CEO Opera Software said.

“Mobile has helped to transform many people’s lives in the emerging regions where often a computing device will be the first and only mobile experience they’ll ever have” Paul Jacobs, chairman of the board and CEO of Qualcomm Inc., said. “Having shipped more than 11 billion chips, Qualcomm is a market leader that is committed to the goal of bridging the digital divide. We’re pleased to be a part of internet.org and to be working with key ecosystem players to drive this initiative forward.”

“This new initiative has big potential to help accelerate access to the Internet for everyone,” JK Shin, CEO and president of the IT and mobile communications division at Samsung Electronics, said. “We’re focused on delivering high quality mobile devices to ensure that the next 5 billion people have great mobile Internet experiences.”

The Internet.org web site provides an overview of the mission and goals, as well as a full list of the partners. In the coming weeks, it will feature interviews with technology leaders and experts, along with the latest news on internet.org activities.

 

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