Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg pledges refugee camp internet access

27 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates make bid for universal Internet access by 2020.

UNITED NATIONS, UNITED STATES: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates on Saturday threw their weight behind the goal of bringing Internet access to everyone in the world by 2020.

The Internet became commonplace in developed countries in the 1990s, but UN officials estimate that half the world does not have reliable access – especially women and girls, whose education is vital to development. “When people have access to the tools and knowledge of the Internet, they have access to opportunities that make life better for all of us,” said a declaration signed by Zuckerberg and Bill and Melinda Gates, who have devoted their wealth to philanthropy. Zuckerberg, swapping his trademark hoodie for a suit and tie as he appeared at the United Nations, said that for every 10 people connected to the Internet, one is lifted out of poverty. “The Internet is more than just a network of machines; it is the key driver of social and economic progress in our time,” Zuckerberg told a luncheon at the UN headquarters attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Other signatories included Jimmy Wales, co-founder of free online encyclopedia Wikipedia, and U2 frontman Bono on behalf of his One anti-poverty campaign. Jamie Drummond, global executive director of One which spearheaded the push, called on every country to come up with an “urgent plan” to meet the Internet access goals.

Zuckerberg said Facebook was partnering with the UN agency for refugees to bring the internet to refugee camps. “Connectivity will help refugees better access support from the aid community and maintain their links to families,” he said. Releasing the report, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that more than $25 billion has been committed so far to meeting the goals, led by $3.3 billion from the United States and large pledges from Canada, Germany and Sweden. Addressing the UN Private Sector Forum, he said wide internet access “needs to be at the heart of the global development strategy” to address new challenges and needs of the new generation. “Data can help us make smarter decisions but only if you can interpret it quickly and with confidence, so we want to help the UN make decisions that will advance our goals,” he said.

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