Mark Zuckerberg: Internet access can eradicate extreme poverty

27 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Ahead of UN address, Mark Zuckerberg issues call for universal Internet access.

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.Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates on Saturday threw their weight and resources behind the goal of bringing Internet access to everyone in the world by 2020.He added that it would help refugees get better support from the aid community and help them maintain links to family and loved ones, according to CNET. ‘The Internet is more than just a network of machines, it is the key driver of social and economic progress in our time,’ said Zuckerberg in his speech. ‘A like or a post won’t stop a tank or a bullet, but when people are connected, we have the chance to build a common global community with a shared understanding.’ The largest refugee population is from war-torn Syria – where Facebook, incidentally, is banned. It was attended by government leaders and business executives and was intended to encourage private-sector cooperation to advance the ambitious global development goals adopted Friday in the General Assembly.

He has said that Internet access is “essential for achieving humanity’s Global Goals.” In support of its ‘Connectivity Declaration,’ Facebook is joined by numerous individuals and organizations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, entrepreneur Richard Branson, Ericsson’s Hans Vestberg, editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington, Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales, TED founder Chris Anderson, actor George Takei, artist Shakira, UN Foundation’s Kathy Calvin, actor Charlize Theron for the Africa Outreach Project, and others. Facebook, along with Google, has been engaging in a concentrated effort to build more satellites and other craft that can beam internet services to remote towns and villages. Other signatories included Jimmy Wales, co-founder of free online encyclopedia Wikipedia, and U2 frontman Bono on behalf of his One anti-poverty campaign.

The statement seeks to draw attention to the United Nation’s Global Goals, which the world body adopted this week — namely, to the section that demands Internet access for all (including the least-developed countries of the world) by 2020. Zuckerberg, writing on Facebook, said that for every 10 people connected to the Internet, one is lifted out of poverty. “If we connect the more than four billion people not yet online, we have a historic opportunity to lift the entire world in the coming decades,” he wrote. 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.

On Saturday, she made a strong pitch to business leaders to do their part, reminding them that curbing corruption, which is one of the goals, would make their lives easier, too. The objectives, described as “a to-do list for people and planet” by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, are intended as a roadmap to be implemented by government and the private sector. The Pope and Malala have spoken eloquently about the one world and one family we’re all a part of, and the internet, at its best, facilitates that unity.

The connectivity campaign calls on governments, businesses and innovators to bring the Internet to the some 4 billion people who now do not have access, organisers said. Melinda Gates, speaking to reporters in advance of the launch, said that the health and education of girls was critical to anti-poverty efforts and that the issue had not been sufficiently emphasized in the UN’s previous Millennium Development Goals. “When we look at investing our own money or asking governments to invest their money… we have to make sure that those investments make a difference,” she said.

And while his Internet.org program hopes to reach 100 countries within the next year, it has met with criticism, especially from those who claim it violates the principles of net neutrality and provides access to a limited number of sites. Critics also object to the idea of giving Facebook even broader reach. “Facebook has proven over and over again that its goal is to make our personal lives less private. The petition describes the Internet as “an enabler of human rights.” Nearby, Obama administration officials sponsored an event to demonstrate anti-censorship tools, built with financial help from the government, for dissidents in repressive countries. “The openness of the global Internet is challenged today like never before,” Tom Malinowski, the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, said, calling the countermeasures that companies and groups were developing “a foretaste of our response.” Facebook, by ensuring that it is a gatekeeper of content, is ensuring that the users of Internet.org are a second tier of Internet citizens,” said Rafael Laguna, chief executive of collaboration software provider Open-Xchange, in an email to VentureBeat.

Besides speaking at the UN today in its private sector forum, Facebook’s CEO was in high-level tech talks with China’s premier earlier this week, and will host a town hall Q&A session with India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, tomorrow at Facebook’s headquarters.

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