As part of his ambitious Internet.org project, Mark Zuckerberg has announced he will send a satellite into space in order to provide internet to developing countries.
Two years ago, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg announced the formation of Internet.org, an organisation which aims to make the internet more accessible to the whole world. To do this, they aim to tackle three key areas: Affordability, Efficiency and Business Models. They look to make it cheaper for people to access the internet, make data transfer more efficient and give companies an incentive to provide good internet access to targeted regions.
In it Together
Making clear his humanitarian intentions, as opposed to business-based concerns, Zuckerberg says that:
“We’re in this together.
Making the Internet available to every person on earth is a goal that is too large and too important for any one company, group or government to solve alone. Everyone participating in Internet.org has come together to meet this challenge because they believe in the power of a connected world”.
The biggest step so far in achieving this goal was announced earlier this month as Zuckerberg took to Facebook to unveil the company’s satellite launch plans. The satellite will provide internet access to “large parts of west, east and southern Africa”. Fibre optic cables in these regions could be years away from making an appearance, so this scheme could be an excellent solution until then.
Devil in The Detail
Providing these areas with internet access could be a huge factor in helping them develop, connecting them to the rest of the world. One detail that hasn’t been mentioned though is just how these areas are expected to connect to the internet. The signal is now there of course, but without the devices to be able to make use of it, it’s a little pointless. They did say that they were “going to work with local partners across these regions to help communities begin accessing internet services provided through satellite”. This may result in providing cheap or even free equipment for people to get online.
Not Just Hot Air
Schemes like the One Laptop Per Child initiative could be crucial in providing developing countries with the hardware they need to get online. If not directly, they could serve as a model for other companies to emulate when trying to give internet access to the world. Then we can look to Google’s Project Loon to help bridge the gaps. Google aim to launch balloons around the globe by next year, which will be capable of beaming an internet connection back to earth. The balloon network will be interconnected and be able to provide internet access to otherwise isolated parts of the world. If the big companies are capable of working together, we could see Facebook satellites beaming internet to Google balloons, sending a connection to computers provided by free computer charities. An optimistic scenario, but one which may have to happen for the dream of global internet access to exist.
Innovation and Connectivity
Neill Birchenall believes that innovating is the best chance we have of delivering internet to developing countries:
"The concept that the developing world can educate themselves out of poverty (with the access to information via the internet) is not a new one. It is now becoming universally accepted that, if we can find a way to provide basic internet access, improved quality of life for the world’s poorest will follow. Jumping on this bandwagon is Mark Zuckerberg. Along with any billionaire worth mentioning now operating their own space program, he proposes that the best way to provide this access is with satellites. Facebook will be partnering with Eutelsat, so don’t expect to see any Facebook branded rockets taking off from Cape Canaveral anytime soon. But who knows where this may lead!
Affordable Internet will come to all four corners of the earth but the physical network of fibre optic & copper cables which have served us so well in the past are not part of how we are going to get it there."