How and why Facebook’s wants to connect 5 billion more people

With only one-third of the world’s population using the internet, there’s still a majority of people that don’t have internet access today. Facebook is one of many company’s hoping to change that, having started its initiative last year for what it expects to be a ten or more year effort.

Why invest the time and resources to bring internet access to the remaining two-thirds of the planet? It benefits us all, not just those five billion people who would be first time web users says Facebook’s Director of Global Connectivity, Chris Weasler.

Speaking at the Gigaom Structure Connect event in San Francisco on Tuesday, Weasler explained both the challenges and the benefits faced by

Our strategy looks a network coverage data and there are two main hurdles. First, around 85 percent of the world’s population already lives near a network connection, but they’re not all on the web. So awareness is a huge barrier because people who don’t use the internet don’t know the value of the internet. Second is affordability of services.

To those ends, [company]Facebook[/company] and works with carriers to raise awareness, while also testing internet access in emerging markets. When a number of company employees traveled to Nigeria and tried to use Facebook on their phones, they found they really couldn’t. So the team went back, Weasler said, and re-worked the app to make it 50 percent lighter on data usage. Working with a carrier in Indonesia, Facebook helped monitor end-to-end performance of apps and tuned the network, leading to 70 percent improvement for the users. The company is also looking at space-delivered web service including solar-powered planes.

Faster and broader web access is good, but what does it actually do for the world in general?

“It’s not just the two-thirds of new internet users that will see benefits but the other third of existing connected people will as well. This will aid in the transition of a resource-based economy to an infinitely renewable knowledge-based one thanks to improved communications and information availability,” Weasler said.

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Photo by Jakub Mosur

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