Mike Isaac

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In Joint Initiative, Facebook and Other Tech Giants Aim to Bring Web Access to the World

In a joint partnership between some of the world’s largest tech companies, Facebook announced on Tuesday evening the launch of Internet.org, an effort to reduce the barriers to online access for developing nations across the globe.

The effort — which includes a handful of the most powerful tech operators in the world including Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung — is focused primarily on mobile devices, the most likely way that the billions of people who aren’t online will access the Internet in the coming years.

“Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect,” Zuckerberg said in a statement. “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.”

The approach is three-pronged. First, the group says it aims to work on lowering the cost of technologies used to access the Web — be it through cheaper smartphones or local operating partnerships. Second, the group aims to bring data usage down, working on more efficient apps, data-compression tools and better network capabilities. And third, the group will work on developing sustainable business models in local markets that ultimately make it easier to access the Internet.

Facebook isn’t entirely new to the space. With Facebook Zero, a partnership with 50 operators in more than 45 countries, it tried a similar effort to bring low-cost Facebook access to developing nations.

And bringing the Internet to the world isn’t exactly a novel idea, either. You might remember Google’s Project Loon, announced just a few months ago, a plan to blanket the world in Wi-Fi signals with balloons floating over countries all across the earth.

While the rest of the developing world can benefit from the likes of Google, Facebook and a host of other companies floating them free wireless connectivity and devices, it certainly helps these Web giants, too. The developing world contains the largest potential areas of growth for these companies, ripe with new users who may have never heard of Facebook before.

And when they do end up getting signed up online, boy, does Facebook have the right phone for them.

Call it a corporate form of enlightened self-interest.

For a more in-depth version of Zuckerberg’s vision for a more connected world, here’s his lengthy, rough treatise on how Internet.org plans to take its first steps.

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