Global tech firms form “Internet.org” to make internet accessible to the next 5 billion people

The Internet.org Homepage
The Internet.org Homepage

Seven global technology firms – Facebook; Ericsson; MediaTek; Nokia; Opera; Qualcomm and Samsung – have come together to form a partnership which aims to make the internet access and available to the next 5 billion people in the world.

Through the partnership – called internet.org – the firms will collaborate with other technology partners to develop and adopt technologies that make mobile connectivity more affordable and decrease the cost of delivering data to people worldwide. This includes testing new models that align incentives for mobile operators, device manufacturers, developers and other businesses to provide more affordable internet access than has previously been possible.

Internet.org comes at a time when internet penetration in Africa remains very low. Even though Africa’s mobile subscriptions have grown to over 700 million (or about 70% of population) by 2013, internet penetration still stands at 16% of population – meaning that over 800 million Africans do not have access to the Internet.

Looked at differently, this also means that not all those with mobile handsets are able to access the internet due to many factors – ranging from cost of data-enabled devices to cost data.

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.

Said Hans Vestberg, President and CEO of Ericsson: “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.”

Facebook founder and CEO said: “Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect. There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy.”

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.”

Said Nokia President and CEO Stephen Elop: “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.”

Lars Boilesen, CEO Opera Software, said: “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.”

Said Paul Jacobs, chairman of the board and CEO of Qualcomm: “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”

Said JK Shin, CEO and President of the IT & Mobile Communications Division at Samsung Electronics: “This new initiative has big potential to help accelerate access to the Internet for everyone. We’re focused on delivering high quality mobile devices to ensure that the next five billion people have great mobile Internet experiences.”

Currently, 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% each year, which is slow considering how early we are in its development.

The goal of Internet.org is therefore 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.

The 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.

The Internet.org website was launched yesterday. It provides an overview of the mission and goals, as well as a full list of the partners and will in the coming weeks feature interviews with technology leaders and experts, along with the latest news on Internet.org activities.