Does Mark Zuckerberg really just want to be friends with emerging markets?

Connecting five billion people to the Internet is a pretty lofty ambition, so it would take some serious clout to bring such a goal to fruition.

Of all the high-profile figures in the tech industry, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is one such man – somebody who might just be able to pull all the right strings.

Zuckerberg’s new global initiative, Internet.org, aims to make the Internet available to “the next five billion people.” However, it’s unclear exactly how he plans on bringing this plan into effect – or indeed whether he’s motivated entirely by humanitarian feeling, or by profit. Facebook may well have reached saturation point in the developed markets that it first conquered – casting a wider net over emerging markets is the logical path for growth.

This is perhaps a cynical stance to take on Zuckerberg’s plan, but he is an astute businessman. While he might protest that “it may not actually be profitable for [Facebook] to serve the next few billion people for a very long time, if ever”, it’s difficult to believe that he wants to connect emerging markets to the Internet as a charitable gesture.

Internet.org has laid out a three-point plan for connecting emerging markets. Firstly, the cost of Internet-enabled devices such as smartphones must be reduced. Secondly, networks must be improved in order to “more efficiently handle data”, and thirdly developing new business models to “get people online”. While these are certainly things that need to happen for Internet connectivity to flourish in developing markets, it would be remiss not to mention that the industry has been aware of these points for some time. Indeed, one might argue that these goals are shared by most companies developing telecommunications solutions aimed at emerging markets.

That said, Zuckerberg has certainly enlisted the help of many of these companies, having recruited such influential firms as Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and Qualcomm to the cause. If the initiative fuels innovative new solutions from these companies, then its value will not be in dispute. While the Facebook CEO’s motives are perhaps murky, he unquestionably has the power to unite industry luminaries under his banner – and this will surely drive progress in connecting the next five billion.

 

Sign-up to our weekly newsletter

Keep up-to-date with all the latest news, articles, event and product updates posted on Developing Telecoms.
Subscribe to our FREE weekly email newsletters for the latest telecom info in developing and emerging markets globally.
Sending occasional e-mail from 3rd parties about industry white papers, online and live events relevant to subscribers helps us fund this website and free weekly newsletter. We never sell your personal data. Click here to view our privacy policy.