Zuckerberg pushes Internet for everyone in UN speech

26 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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

UNITED NATIONS — Latest developments at the United Nations summit on the adoption of an ambitious blueprint to eradicate extreme poverty and other global goals. (All times local). Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates have thrown their weight and resources behind a goal to bring internet access to everyone in the world by 2020. Zuckerberg 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. 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 Mr Zuckerberg and Bill and Melinda Gates, who have devoted their wealth to philanthropy. “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.

Facebook’s chief executive has signed on with the international campaign and advocacy organization, ONE campaign to help bring this cause to the forefront. Other signatories included Jimmy Wales, co-founder of free online encyclopedia Wikipedia, and U2 frontman Bono on behalf of his One anti-poverty campaign. He says that internet access is “essential for achieving humanity’s Global Goals.” Called the ‘Connectivity Declaration’, Facebook is joined by numerous individuals and organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Richard Branson, Ericsson’s Hans Vestberg, Arianna Huffington, 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. Releasing the report, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said more than $25 billion had 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.

Britain’s U.N. deputy ambassador Peter Wilson on Saturday repeated his government’s belief that it’s time for a woman, but he pushed back against a proposal that the secretary-general serve a single, longer term. 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 emphasised 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. 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 UN visit capped a week in which Zuckerberg – whose company’s service reaches 1.3 billion members worldwide — has taken on a global leadership role. Russia argues that it’s Eastern Europe’s turn to provide a secretary-general, but former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, the deputy chair of a group of global leaders called The Elders, said that “we cannot afford to limit our search to one single region of the world.” Jordan is making an impassioned plea for the world’s countries to take in more Syrian refugees as the tiny country is overwhelmed by those fleeing the conflict. After meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Pacific Northwest earlier in the week, Zuckerberg hosted India Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a town hall. (Zuckerberg visited Modi in India last year.) As Facebook continues its astonishing growth overseas, it is increasingly training its sights on the world’s two most populous countries. That must change and fast.” In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg wrote that by giving someone internet access, those without a voice will be able to speak out and it empowers those that once were powerless. “We also know that the internet is a vital enabler of jobs, growth and opportunity,” he writes. “And research tells us that for every 10 people connected to the internet, about 1 is lifted out of poverty.” Naturally, one doesn’t have to look that far to see the importance of internet access — just see how it affected the Arab Spring, protests in China, and many other areas around the world.

And while his Internet.org program hopes to reach 100 countries within the next year, it’s not without criticism, especially from those that claim that it violates the principles of net neutrality and provides limited access to sites. “Facebook has proven over and over again that its goal is to make our personal lives less private. Jordan’s delegation said its Syrian refugee burden is similar to Brazil taking in another 40 million people, or South Africa another 11 million or so. The leaders of India, Brazil, Germany and Japan are expressing concern about the failure to reform the Security Council and calling again for permanent seats on the U.N.’s most powerful body.

The four regional leaders said in a joint statement Saturday that “a more representative, legitimate and effective” council is needed more than ever to address spiraling global crises and conflicts. 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. Every proposed change has been rejected, primarily because of rivalries between countries and regions and concerns over self-interest above a better functioning U.N. The four leaders pledged to work with all U.N. member states to accelerate “early and meaningful” council reform and “concrete outcomes” during the General Assembly session which ends in September 2016.

Stephen O’Brien told a side event on humanitarian financing at the U.N. summit that adopted new development goals for the next 15 years that humanitarian aid was originally supposed to be temporary — “a first aid box.” “We’re here today to talk about a system which is not broken — but it is broke,” O’Brien said, adding the current system must change if new development agenda to is to be achieved. A statement from Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman Saturday says Ban encouraged President Hassan Rouhani to “contribute to a political settlement of the crises in the region, particularly with regard to Syria and Yemen.” The Iran nuclear deal has raised expectations that Tehran might engage more on other crucial issues. Xi said China would write-off intergovernmental interest-free loans owed to China by the least-developed, small island nations and most heavily debt-burdened countries due this year. He said China “will continue to increase investment in the least developed countries,” and support global institutions, including the Beijing-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank that is due to launch by the end of the year.

Rouhani also linked violence against man and violence against nature, saying that “terrorists, in fact, tend to grow and thrive in lands deprived and damaged by environmental disasters and easily pour across borders like haze.”

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