Facebook says there’s money to be made bringing Internet to the developing world

28 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook open to more mobile operators to sign up to internet.org.

Facebook has announced that it is making it easier for any mobile operator to sign up to internet.org to offer free internet access to basic online services marking the one-year anniversary. According to The Verge, Internet.org began with initial launches in Africa, but it has since expanded to cover 17 countries, including large populations like Pakistan, India and Indonesia across three continents. Facebook also courting them with statistics like Internet.org brings new users onto mobile networks on average over 50 percent faster after launching free basic services and more than half are paying for data and accessing the internet within the first 30 days suggesting that Internet.org can not only change people’s lives, but improve operators’ bottom lines. Internet.org has brought over 9 million people online over the past year, Chris Daniels, vice president of product for Internet.org, told Reuters on Monday. Internet.org is often accused of allowing access to only preferred websites Facebook said in its blog post that its goal was to work with as many mobile operators and developers as possible to extend the benefits of connectivity.

To help woo those firms, Internet.org is arguing that it represents more than a tool to get the disconnected online: It’s also good for the carriers’ bottom lines. Facebook developed the platform with six technology partners to bring an estimated 4.5 billion unconnected people online, mainly in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

In a blog post, Internet.org cites various figures designed to get network operators seeing dollar signs — or perhaps more accurately, pesos, francs and rupees — in a possible partnership with Mark Zuckerberg’s initiative. But there have been hiccups along the way – most notably in India, where the very concept of using the Internet.org app as the way Indians access the Internet has raised troubling questions about Facebook’s role. The Internet.org application, launched in India in February in partnership with Reliance Communications, faced backlash with a number of leading technology and Internet firms pulling out of the service after activists claimed it violated the principles of a neutral Internet. “I would say India is unique in that respect and very much an outlier. These points show that Internet.org is not only a successful tool in helping bring people online, but it is successful in showing people the value of the internet and helping to accelerate its adoption.… For cellular carriers in developing countries, these numbers suggest the potential for rapid growth if they keep investing in their data networks and use Internet.org as an onramp.

Facebook claims it’s a gateway, but there’s something that rubs people the wrong way when they are told which sites are free, and which are not, and how they must access them. That could be a compelling message: No mobile Internet provider is going to sign on with Internet.org unless it thinks it’ll get something out of it. According to data released by Facebook, the moneymaking potential of Internet.org for all these partners and developers seems to be based on reality rather than just hype.

It’s cool if the world’s most innovative countries are bringing Internet access with them, but not so cool if it’s all just a way to make money and get people signing up for new services that have been hand-selected for them. This means that if the plan for bringing on board more developers takes off, it could result in new health apps and new mobile wellness options, especially for the world’s rural populations.

That would help to silence critics who see plans to wire the earth with Internet as unfocused on the planet’s real problems, such as finding a cure for malaria.

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