Zuckerberg Pushes for Universal Internet Access by 2020

27 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook boss plans to bring internet to refugee camps.

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, including internet in refugee camps. “I believe Internet access is essential for achieving humanity’s #globalgoals,” reads the Connectivity Declaration released by One and signed by several high-profile people and philanthrophic organizations, including The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.“It’s not all altruism,” Mr Zuckerberg said on Saturday, in an implicit acknowledgment that drawing new users to his service is also good for Facebook’s bottom line. “We all benefit when we are more connected.” He said a connection to the internet was “an enabler of human rights” and a “force for peace”. The declaration was released as the United Nations considered the Global Goals, a development blueprint aimed at solving pressing social and economic challenges.

He said Facebook is partnering with the U.N. 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. Zuckerberg appeared at the UN this week to discuss the Internet component of those goals and explain that “connecting the world is one of the fundamental challenges of our generation.” “Today over half the people on this planet don’t have access,” Zuckerberg wrote in a joint New York Times op-ed with Bono. “That is not good for anyone — not for the disempowered and disconnected, and not for the other half, whose commerce and security depend on having stable societies.” Zuckerberg pointed to farmers in Africa who use the mobile Web to track inventory and prices, women in South America who use phones to get health information, and refugees who use smartphones to stay in touch with family during their journey to Europe. Much of the frustration felt was directed at Indonesian stakeholders during these past few weeks: I was amazed to see the amount of anger and helplessness felt, without taking into consideration that this is very much a regional issue that requires action at many levels. (Many social media rants were accompanied with pleas for action to the Indonesian president; I had no idea that so many friends were acquainted with Jokowi over Facebook.) The smog is an old issue, and has worsened this year due to the El Nino phenomenon.

Other signatories included Jimmy Wales, co-founder of free online encyclopedia Wikipedia, and U2 front man Bono on behalf of his One anti-poverty campaign. 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.

In developing countries, only about 35 percent of people have Internet access. “Nine out of 10 rural Africans don’t have electricity,” Zuckerberg said. “Governments can make the difference. The last extreme El Nino (1997-1998) had led to losses in food production and the death of about 23,000 persons due to cyclones, droughts, floods and wildfires.

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. This is why we support initiatives like President Obama’s Power Africa plan and the bipartisan Electrify Africa Act in Congress, as well as the African Development Bank’s investments in renewable energy.” Facebook has been working to expand Internet global Internet access via its Internet.org.

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. But Silicon Valley must “do far more for those most marginalized, those trapped in poverty, and those beyond or on the edge of the network,” Zuckerberg and Bono wrote. In April, 65 organizations from around the world sent an open letter to Mr Zuckerberg complaining that the project violated the principles of net neutrality in the guise of “access for impoverished people.” In the courtyard of the UN General Assembly building this past week, Facebook displayed pieces of the mammoth drone that it is building to beam Wi-Fi connections to places that have none. A legal alternative to the slash-and-burn method is to produce bio-mass, which would leave the land unusable for the three years required for the chopped vegetation to biodegrade.

The pressure, therefore, is on institutions to provide other more affordable means of clearing land and possibly, for plantation owners to play their part. Mr Zuckerberg’s remarks coincided with a petition that he began with the entertainer Bono, the philanthropist Mo Ibrahim and others to expand connectivity, calling Internet access “essential” to achieving the development goals but skirting thorny issues like net neutrality and Internet censorship. The Sydney Morning Herald had reported that oil palm plantations owned by Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean companies earned US$18.4 billion (RM81 billion) last year.

Indonesian authorities have started investigations against companies connected to the smog, and Singapore has served legal notices, with the implication of massive fines attached, to companies held responsible. In comparison, our minister of natural resources and environment said Indonesian authorities were responsible “to put in place proper laws and tighten enforcement”, and that “it’s not fair for Jakarta to blame foreign plantation giants for starting fires”.

In addition to our shared responsibilities, less attention has been paid to the collective impacts experienced also by our neighbours: while Singapore has closed schools due to hazardous conditions, in Indonesia, a two-year-old toddler and a 15-year-old girl have died due to respiratory problems. Right now, where we are as a region does not reflect well on both our institutions and who we are as national and global citizens in the matter of doling out accountability.

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