In 2013, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, had a goal to provide internet to parts of the world that currently did not have access or for people who could not afford what was provided. With that, he was hopeful that every single person would be able to be online. He started an initiative called Internet.org, in connection with the governments of the different countries, to bring basic internet services to the previously unserved areas. They did this through existing internet lines, making cheaper phones and access available, and by using lasers and solar-powered drones (Deresky, 2017). An app was created that would allow people to get online through a Facebook-powered platform to access information about “health, employment, and local news” (Deresky, 2017).
Zuckerberg felt that bringing internet to these unconnected countries would boost their economies and would potentially bring about the opportunity for future growth in the technological field. There were a lot of people who criticized Zuckerberg because of his use of the Facebook platform that was the basis used to connect people to the internet. Because of the “free trial” type connection, if people wanted to be able to access more on the internet than the limited apps that were provided, they would have to pay more for them. This led to accusations of monopolizing the situation and violating net neutrality because “it doesn’t give completely unfettered access to the open web” (Constine, 2018).
Internet.org’s impact on economies has mixed reviews. The internet was indeed brought to these countries and allowed the citizens to connect to the world, to learn more about what is going on in their communities and country, as well as what is happening in the world. It has allowed people to become educated regarding their health and has allowed them to obtain jobs that might not have been available or known to them previously. Because people generally did not have a lot of money to be able to afford the internet service provided nor a device to view the internet upon, people were issued bank credit to be able to have the device and internet access (Deresky, 2017). Having internet also allowed the opportunity for e-learning for those who were unable to attend traditional schools or college.
The biggest criticism with Internet.org was the lack of net neutrality. Net neutrality is in place “to ensure that freedom of speech and expression online are not warped by market forces, or otherwise unfairly curtailed by network providers” (Carrillo, 2017). Carrillo goes on to say that the “potential threat to net neutrality is zero rating, which refers to ‘the practice by service providers of offering their customers a specific set of services or applications that are free to use without a data plan, or that do not count against existing data caps’” (Carrillo, 2017).
On the contrary, Darrell West wrote a paper in 2015 discussing his ideas for bringing internet to those people who are outside of connectivity. He states, “zero rating programs represent effective ways to bring poor people from the developing world into the digital era and promote innovation and competition in the Internet sector. These programs enable people who lack the financial resources for expensive data plans to use certain applications without having that usage charged towards the individual’s data cap” (West, 2015).
People in the emerging economies, through Internet.org, were able to connect to the internet. They were able to have some of the same advantages of those in the rest of the world who are connected to the internet. “The Internet removes geographic barriers, allowing people to connect and work together regardless of where they live, generating new business opportunities for everyone involved. For workers, this means being able to find jobs regardless of where they happen to be, and getting paid what they are worth in a global economy” (Colao, 2013).
Zuckerberg felt that having the internet is a human right and that it should be available to all. He claimed that “his initiative didn’t run counter to net neutrality. He argued that a limited internet was better than no internet; if people couldn’t afford to pay for connectivity, ‘it is always better to have some access and voice than none at all’” (Hempel, 2018). I believe the efforts of Zuckerberg were to both serve the “bottom of the pyramid” and to “expand its reach” (Deresky, 2017).
Why would he want to do both? In the words of Jessi Hempel, “healthy networks make for a better Facebook” (Hempel, 2018). A healthy network with more people connected and using it ultimately means more for Zuckerberg. Looking at this from a business perspective, why would you not want to get more people onto your internet platform? Why would you not want more people working global jobs so that there is more money to spend on your services or through your advertisers? Zuckerberg has tapped into an avenue that makes sense for a businessman. The question I still have is, “why not just come out and admit you are in it for the money?”