During the 2014 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unleashed an ambitious plan to aimed at making internet access available to the two-thirds of the world not yet connected. This then led to the launch of Internet.org, a partnership between Facebook, industry giants such as Nokia,Qualcomm and telecom carriers, to use solar-powered drones and spacecraft to beam internet to the developing world.
Internet.org provides basic web services such as weather reports, Wikipedia, messaging and Facebook to users at no cost, in the hope that it will inspire them to explore the rest of the web and reap the benefits that it can provide. Just last week, the program reached 1 billion people following its launch in Malawi. Internet.org is also open to developers on condition websites will built will be optimized for browsing on feature and smartphones on limited bandwidth.
The platform continues to elicit criticism for not abiding by the principles of net neutrality by allowing faster access to some sites. Currently, a total of 67 digital rights groups – including i Freedom Uganda, Ecuador’s Usuarios Digitales and Indonesia’s ICT Watch – have signed a letter to Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, stating concerns about the initiative. The project has so far launched in Zambia, India, Colombia, Guatemala, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malawi with more than 9 million people having used the scheme so far. The most vocal opposition to Internet.org had come from India’s tech community stating they risk being disadvantaged by the scheme. The protesters say that the scheme also violates on the privacy concerns as one of the guidelines for developers was that the websites should not include the HTTPS, TLS or SSL encryption technologies
In response, Facebook says its convinced that as more and more people gain access to the internet, they will see the benefits and want to use even more services. It will be interesting to see how Zuckerberg tackles these challenges.