Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is on a two-day visit to New Delhi, launched the global Internet project called internet.org in the country. The project, which was globally announced in August last year, aims to bring Internet connectivity to the two-thirds of the global population that is not connected. The founding members of internet.org are Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung.
“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,” according to a statement by Facebook earlier in August 2013.
Appreciating India’s Mars mission Mangalyaan, Zuckerberg said, “After this achievement, it is now important for the country to connect all of its people to the Internet. With Internet.org we aim to connect rural India to Internet. In India, about 243 million people are connected to the Internet and 100 million of that uses Facebook. However, there are more than a billion people in the country who are still not connected. We want to change that with this project.”
Internet.org is also influenced by Open Compute Project, an industry-wide initiative that has lowered the costs of cloud computing by making hardware designs more efficient and innovative.
The internet,org aims to develop ‘joint projects, share knowledge, and mobilize industry and governments to bring the world online.’ “Internet connectivity can be now considered as a human right,” said Zuckerberg, who would meeting Prime Narendra Modi on Friday.
Zuckerberg further stated that just lowering the price of smartphones or data plans is not a sustainable solution to the long term problem of connectivity.
In July, Facebook partnered with Airtel to launch the Internet.org Android app in Zambia to offer basic Internet services for free. The Android app gives free access to Facebook, Facebook Messenger along with Wikipedia, Google search and AccuWeather. The app also provides access to local health and jobs services.
Citing the major barriers Internet connectivity in India, Zuckerberg said, “The biggest barrier is social and cultural acceptance. This barrier is bigger than the known infrastructural and economic barriers.”
Zuckerberg listed three major challenges in India which prevent people from using the Internet. Infrastructure- Around 10 to 15 per cent of the population is not in range of a 2G or 3G network.Economic- Around 2.5 billion people globally live on less than $2 a day. So, Internet connectivity has to be more affordable. Social- Lack of relevant connect in local languages is a major hindrance along with the problem of cultural acceptance.
The Internet.org Innovation Challenge in India was also announced at the summit to recognize those who are working to make the Internet more relevant to four populations that are currently underserved in India: women, students, farmers and migrant workers.
These communities face some of the largest structural barriers to going online and the content they find once they are connected is often of little value.
“We will be presenting four $250,000 USD Innovation Challenge Award prizes: one to the leading app, website or service or idea that best meets the needs of each of the designated population categories. Two $25,000 USD Impact Award prizes will also be granted in each category,” according to a statement.
Winners will be announced at Mobile World Congress in March 2015, and interested individuals, organisations and groups can submit applications through January 31, 2015.
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