Facebook to Close the Great Digital Divide?

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The CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, is hoping to close the great digital divide, as well as make a few million dollars in the process. Since July of 2010, Finland has offered the internet to citizens for free. Even some towns in the United states have set up free public WiFi networks. The digital divide is a big issue in the United States, that many internet providers do not want the public to think about, until now. One-third of the total world population has access to the internet. This leaves five-billion people who live everyday without access to the vast amount of information available on the web. Communication technology companies want everyone to have the opportunity to buy their products.

Americans have seen huge spikes in the amount of people owning computers and accessing the web, according to the May 2013 United States Census. The report showed that 75.6 per-cent of households in America reported having at least one personal computer in their home. This number has been raised significantly since 2003, when 61.8 per-cent of Americans reported owning a personal computer. The report also showed that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, is working with development group internet.org to allow every human in the world to have access to a basic internet connection. Zuckerberg states that as long as the company has existed, it has been dedicated to helping people all over the world to be able to connect. In a post to his timeline, Zuckerberg quickly addresses the issues that unequal access to the web has on the world’s economy and social culture. There are huge barriers that block people in third world countries from accessing the internet. This is even true in many of the third-world countries that American companies have donated computer to since the birth of the desktop computer.

The absence of these cultures in the web is not only dangerous because they do not have access to the vast array of data that is already present, but there are world voices that are unheard. The internet offers a space for people to share information cross-culturally. If cultures share more information with each other, this will allow for better informed international legislation, and regulation.

By providing internet access to more Though Zuckerberg’s desire to bring the internet to the world may be driven by his desires of personal gain. He understands that this development in internet technology will have many more implications. A 2012 study by Internet World Stats found that world-wide internet usage has been surging, many countries saw an increase of internet access rising over 3,500%, between the years of 2000 through July 2012.

Zuckerberg’s ambition is to be expected from an ad driven company. The all-inclusive availability of internet access will allow many more people to have access to Zuckerberg’s social media empire. This will allow the company’s marketing team to expand their advertisement sales to companies in the international market. This would give Facebook a database bursting with the private information of many individuals from countries world-wide. Zuckerberg’s empire will analyze this data and effectively market to the global masses. This power can be a dangerous thing. The company, with its new-found international influence, will have the power to cause many cultural tensions, specifically in countries where government laws restrict their citizen’s internet usage.

Many Companies are jumping at the opportunity of closing the great digital divide in hopes to see larger profits as the project takes off; showing their support by means of financial donations. Mobile phone companies, such as Samsung, are hoping to cash in by selling their devices in new geographic locations that have never accessed the internet before. This investment may be one of the most important shifts in the distribution of media has seen since the creation of the first computer. When more people are offered access to these goods and services, more original content will appear on the internet. This content will be more representative of a global culture, allowing voices that were once silenced to finally be heard by all.

The plan is a highly ambitious one, and will require a large amount of financial support. Zuckerberg reported at a press conference that this progress requires them to create new technologies to become reality. Facebook has enlisted the assistance of a few research companies that have made outstanding progress in the projects main key goals. The team includes scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, and Ascenta, a UK-based company that introduced the Zephyr, the longest travelling unmanned aircraft powered by solar energy.

There has been little word about the progress of the researchers. Zuckerberg is not expecting this project to be finished any time soon. The only recent report was vague. It revealed that the Connectivity Lab, as they call it, has simply been making good progress. This gives the many international companies involved time to mull over their plan of attack when internet is finally offered equally world-wide. Facebook’s free internet for all may close the great Digital Divide, but it will certainly mean more power and influence for the site’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Opinion by Joshua Shane

Sources:

United States Census
Harvard Business School: The Business Summit
Internet World Stats
USA Today

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