Every single Internet and telecommunications company out there knows that the vast majority of people have not yet been connected to the Internet. In fact, only around a third of the world has, leaving a huge number of potential clients out there, all of whom have not yet been exposed to the wonders of the technology we take for granted. This is especially true in regions such as Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia.
The only question is: how do you reach this giant, untapped resource?
Seven tech giants have decided to team up to solve that problem, coming together to form Internet.org, " a global partnership with the goal of making internet access available to the next 5 billion people," it was announced late Tuesday.
The first partners in the project are Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm, Samsung.
"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 those who cannot currently afford it," " Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement.
The organization laid out three intial goals for itself:
- To make access afforable: the companies will be partnering to "develop lower-cost, higher-quality smartphones and partnerships" that will allow for the deployment of internet access in communities that are currently underserved. In this case, it will be the mobile operators who will drive the intiative.
- To use data more efficiently: the partners will be working on projects that 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.
- To help businesses drive access: the companies will be developing new business models that align incentives for mobile operators, device manufacturers, developers and other businesses to provide more affordable access. Other efforts will focus on localizing services, meaning working with operating system providers and other partners to enable more languages on mobile devices.
Tthe company expects to add new partners as it goes along, including NGOs, academics and experts as things move forward.
Internet.org is obviously in its very earliest stages right now, but the potential here is huge. Yes, there is obvious economic incentive for these companies to build up their customer base. That has to be a factor in their decision to come together. But the cause is still a noble one. And one that can have a hugely positive affect if it succeeds.
These seven companies are, of course, not the only ones with that same goal in mind, though. Earlier this year, Google launched Project Loon to bring Internet access to the world using solar powered balloons.
They will float 20 kilometers above the earth, in the stratosphere, higher than the altitude at which most planes travel. In the stratosphere, wind is layered and go in particular directions, so Google can actually steer the balloons by going up and down between the different layers.
Once the balloons are up in the air, there are special annetenas on the ground that are used to communicate with them. Each antenna talks to a balloon, and then each balloon talks to the other balloons, and then back to a ground station, which is connected to the local Internet provider. This, essentially, creates a network in the sky.
The race is now on to see who can bring access to the world first!
Check out this video from Internet.org about what they are trying to do with this initative: