Just what network managers wanted to hear: FaceBook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to add another 5 billion users to the Internet. The billionaire already has 1.115 billion Face book users (out of 2.7 billion Internet users) who collectively spent more than 20 billion minutes daily on the social network. Now he is seeking to add the two-thirds of the world’s population not yet on the Internet, by way of a new organization, internet.org — Every one of us. Everywhere. Connected. — backed by Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera Software, Qualcomm, and Samsung.
“I think there are some things in life that if you believe that it’s such a big problem, you just stick your neck out and try to do it,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with CNN. “A lot of people think it’s going to be really challenging to connect 5 billion people, too. It is, but I think it’s one of the big problems of my generation.”
The current network environment — i.e. pre-Zuckerberg’s 5-billion-bonanza — is already a case of the irresistible force, surging demand for ever-greater amounts of bandwidth and speed, meeting the immovable object, relatively flat budgets and growing network infrastructure obsolescence.
It’s already a networking nightmare and now Zuck wants to pour gasoline on the network bandwidth bonfire by tripling the number of Internet users. According to Internet.org, Internet adoption is growing by less than 9% each year, so to speed up adoption for the unconnected, it will focus on three key challenges in the developing world: making access affordable; using data more efficiently; and help businesses drive access.
The second proposal sounds interesting. The partners — mainly mobile-related — “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.”
Even more interesting, Zuckerberg said this goal is achievable in as few as 3 to 5 years, if governments, businesses and other stakeholders work together. It would be a mistake to rely solely on altruism or one entity to meet the goal, he said.
According to the U.N.’s International Telecommunication Union 31% of the population in the developing world is online, versus 77% in the developed world, and 90% of the 1.1 billion households not connected to the Internet are in the developing world.
While Zuckerberg and friends have set an ambitious agenda to connect the world, they’ve got some competition. Google is also looking to broaden Internet access with Project Loon, which calls for floating antenna-equipped balloons high into the atmosphere.
Anybody got a match?