How many friends can you have on Facebook? Evidently, a lot more than you do now because the social media site and other tech companies have joined together in an effort called Internet.org to find a way to get the 4.3 billion people around the planet who are not currently online — online.
Yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced he and his company are "on a mission to make the world more open and connected." Mr. Zuckerberg said that presently about a third of the world is online and that the number getting connected is growing by nine percent annually. While many are going online via smartphones, the cost of data, which dwarfs phone prices in many countries, bars the way to greater access.
The Facebook CEO asserted his belief that "connectivity is a human right" and "the foundation of the global knowledge economy."
The knowledge economy, according to Mr. Zuckerberg, requires the sharing of information to grow. He cited a McKinsey study, which found the internet "accounted for 21 percent of GDP growth in developed countries" over the past five years. The internet is also a net job creator with 2.6 new jobs added for every one lost to improved efficiencies.
Other founding members of Internet.org are Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera Software, Qualcomm and Samsung Electronics. According to Mr. Zuckerberg, the companies share the belief that "it's possible to sustainably provide free access to basic internet services" to everyone with a phone in a way that enables companies to grow profits while building the infrastructure needed to get everyone connected.
In short, the group believes that innovation will reduce the cost of delivering data while less data will be used through more efficient applications. Over the next five to 10 years, the companies project it will become "economically reasonable to offer free basic services to those who cannot afford them and start to sustainably deliver on the promise of connectivity as a human right."
How important is global connectivity to the future of retail?