Money & Business

Zuckerberg's New Nonprofit Pitch: Get Everyone Online

By Ernie Smith / Aug 21, 2013 (Internet.org screenshot)

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s latest nonprofit endeavor is Internet.org, backed by a coalition of companies that aims to broaden online access worldwide.

Increasing access to the internet—it’s an idea that’s been floated pretty widely in recent months (in Google’s case, literally).

Now, the latest nonprofit endeavor of one of the internet’s youngest, richest entrepreneurs is forming a coalition to encourage universal online access.

More on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet.org effort below:

There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy.

The need, defined: While 2.7 billion people around the globe access the internet in some way, most of the world is cut off, says Internet.org. Even on the domestic front, the digital divide remains significant. As recent pieces by both Mashable and The New York Times have pointed out, roughly 20 percent of Americans still don’t use the internet, a number virtually unchanged since President Obama took office and billions of federal dollars were invested in extending access.

The plan: Zuckerberg’s organization will focus on driving down both the cost and the amount of data needed to access content online. Along with its partners, the group plans to help build business efforts to incentivize low-cost internet access, as the group’s press release puts it, “making internet access available to the next 5 billion people.” Internet.org already has backing from mobile technology providers Ericsson, MediaTek, Qualcomm, and Samsung and browser developer Opera. “Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect,” Zuckerberg said in the press release [PDF]. “There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy. Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it.”

This isn’t Zuckerberg’s first foray into the nonprofit world. Earlier this year, he was the lead voice pushing for immigration reform for high-skilled workers as part of the FWD.us lobby. That move hasn’t come without controversy, however, due to the willingness of Fwd.us to support politicians and causes on both sides of the aisle in the effort to win political support for immigration reform. That approach cost the group some high-profile backers.

It’s unclear whether Internet.org, which focuses on a less divisive issue with wider support, will be able to avoid the missteps of FWD.us, but it comes at a time when other groups advocating for the internet’s future, such as the Internet Association, have been steadily gaining ground in Washington.

More info on the undertaking is available on the Internet.org website.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now and a former newspaper guy. More »

Comments

Leave a Comment