The Internet.org summit is bringing together experts, officials and industry leaders to focus on ways to deliver more Internet services for people in languages other than English. Delivering the keynote today at the event, Mark stressed on why the project is close to his heart and how India’s more than a billion population which is still not on the internet can benefit from it.
For a background check: Facebook had started the Internet.org project last year keeping the focus on emerging markets. Facebook had realized pretty early that the future is mobile driven and its next billion users will come from emerging markets like India where internet penetration has been a challenge.
To overcome this problem and jump the red tape of government bureaucracy, Facebook launched project Internet.org that promises to bring internet to two-thirds of the world’s population that doesn’t have it via drones, satellites, lasers and more.
Later on Facebook tied up with FMCG giant Unilever for the Internet.org project in India. As part of the tie-up, Internet.org and Unilever will carry out a comprehensive study to examine the opportunities to increase Internet adoption in rural communities. Apart from infrastructure and cost, which are known barriers to connectivity, the partnership will carefully evaluate other educational and cultural factors that also limit Internet use.
Speaking at the conference today, Mark shared that the year old project is now connecting 3 million people which has been a commendable achievement from Facebook. In his 20 minutes keynote, he spoke about various things that is in the interest of India.
We have summarized the entire keynote in seven key areas that would give you a quick grip of his thoughts on how the young billionaire is looking to democratize the internet globally with the help of Facebook.
1. Appreciated India’s technology growth
To start with Mark appreciated the technology growth that India had from the very early days of Green Revolution that helped pull millions of people out of poverty. Advancement in computer education and the recent success with the maiden Mars mission was appreciated by the Facebook CEO.
He also believes that the country – which has always seen leaps of technology revolution – is at a time when the present youth will drive it forward. However, this drive will not happen without embracing internet which is a problem in the country like most emerging markets.
While mobile continues to grow fast in the country, data costs is something that isn’t helping the growth of the internet in the country. Besides Mark also stated that lowering data costs is not a sustainable measure since operators make huge investments on infrastructure to provide quality service.
2. Making internet connectivity a human right
Mark also stressed on the fact that internet connectivity should become a basic human right. “In developing countries, 25 percent fewer women are online, compared to men,” said Mark. To make internet a basic human right, Mark mentioned that he will be discussing the same with Modi and find out how Facebook can help India.
3. Three major challenges for internet in India
Besides he also shared three very crucial challenges in India that is stopping the Internet penetration in the country.
Infrastructure – Mark shared that according to their research, around 10 to 15 per cent of the population is not in range of a 2G or 3G network. These are remote places of India where basic facilities are also not present and there are more than 600K such villages.
Economic – Around 2.5 billion people globally live on less than $2 a day so even if smartphones and data costs reduce their prices, people will still not be able to buy it.
Social – Third and the most important challenge is that 69% of Indians who have never accessed Internet don’t have enough reasons why they should use it and what benefit can the Internet provide them.
4. Building a 911 service for the internet
To overcome these challenges and make the vast audience aware of the beauty of Internet, Mark stressed on having e a 911 service for internet. “In the US, you can always dial 911 even if you don’t have a phone plan, the way you dial 100 here [in India],” he said. “There needs to be a 911 for the Internet. We’ve been working with operators to offer free basic Internet for everyone, to break down the social barriers. With this model, we’ve already helped people connect 3 million people.”
Mark was iterating the same thoughts that he had shared earlier in the year at the world’s largest mobile technology conference in Barcelona. These thoughts were shared right after news broke out that Facebook had acquired the world’s most popular messaging app, WhatsApp.
“We want to create a similar kind of dial tone for the Internet,” he said earlier in Barcelona, citing messaging, search and weather information among the essential online services that he said people throughout the world should be able to access on Internet-connected phones.
5. About the success of the Internet.org app in Zambia with Airtel
Earlier in the year Facebook’s Internet.org took an interesting step of bringing the Internet to people who are not yet online with the launch of an app in Zambia. In alliance with Airtel, the Internet.org app provides its subscribers access to a set of basic Internet services for free. The app provides features such as AccuWeather to Google search, Wikipedia, a job search site as well as a breadth of health information. Facebook’s own app, along with its Messenger service, is also included. The app works on Android phones as well as the simple “feature phones. ”
Mark informed the crowd present at the summit that by this initiative it is reaching out to three million people.
6. Focus on local language content
Talking about the social challenges, Mark also highlighted a known but missed out fact that most users don’t access internet due to the lack of relevant local language content. According to Facebook 60 percent of Indians are not online due the lack of services and content in spoken languages.
Sharing some more vital data points, he stated 80 percent of content on the Internet are just in 10 languages, while there are 22 official languages in India; 65 percent of people use Facebook in a language other than English, including 10 Indian languages.
To fill this gap, the Mark unveiled a $1 million fund to encourage developers to develop applications in local content for emerging economies.
7. Launch of Internet.org Innovation challenge
He also launched the Internet.org Innovation challenge in India to encourage the development of apps, websites, online services. The award prize is $250,000, which will be presented to the app, website or service that the judges determine best meets the needs of one of the four designated population categories: women, students, farmers and migrant workers (four awards total).
The Innovation Challenge Award winners will also be eligible to receive a package of tools and services worth up to $60,000 from Facebook’s FbStart program. In addition, two apps, websites or services designed for each of the four specified population categories will receive an Impact Award prize in the amount of $25,000.
The next big highlight of the trip would happen tomorrow when he meets the Indian PM and discusses connecting the whole of India with Internet. Modi who is already working on ‘Digital Vision’ for India will be inviting Facebook for the Clean India Campaign.
This article is published with permission.