The Internet has already proven that it connects people throughout most of the world with each other, support organizations, and other tools of model life. But expanding Internet access to everyone, as Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed in one of two addresses he made to the United Nations on Saturday, has the ability to help end poverty, assist in resettling refugees and aid in crises.
During the 70th annual U.N. General Assembly session which also included speeches from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel , Zuckerberg spoke about the crucial role that universal connectivity around the globe plays in fulfilling the U.N.’s agenda to combat global issues and achieve sustainable development goals. In an address directed at heads of state, CEOs, and leaders of charitable foundations and organizations, the Facebook chief noted, “Connecting the world is one of the fundamental challenges of our generation.” He also pointed out that over 4 billion people in the world do not have a voice online at present. (This echoes a U.N. estimate that half the world does not have access to the Web, particularly females, which impacts their education and health.
On Friday, the 193 U.N. member countries adopted 17 sustainable development goals aimed at ending poverty and combating inequality over the next 15 years. The effort also calls for shared peace and prosperity. The goals were described as “a to-do list for people and planet” by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “The Internet belongs to everyone. It should be accessible by everyone,” commented a declaration that was signed by Zuckerberg, U2 lead singer Bono, Bill and Melinda Gates, British entrepreneur Richard Branson; Huffington Post editor Arianna Huffington; Colombian singer Shakira and others.
In one effort, Facebook is working with the U.N. to provide Internet access for the Syrian civil war refugees. This will enable the refugees to more easily communicate with loved ones, potential employers and more, while seeking resettlement.
“The Internet is more than just a network of machines, it is the key driver of social and economic progress in our time,” said Zuckerberg, who promised that his company would maintain its efforts in impoverished as well as developing countries. “A like or a post won’t stop a tank or a bullet, but when people are connected, we have the chance to build a common global community with a shared understanding.”
Zuckerberg commented that even basic Internet access can change lives. He relayed stories of farmers who have to use the Internet for the first time to check crop prices and of families who are better able to care for themselves with access to health information. At the U.N,. he cited research saying that for every 10 people who gain access to the internet, one person is lifted out of poverty. “Access to the Internet is a fundamental challenge of our time,” he said. “This is an opportunity available to all nations today.”
Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss
CNET: Facebook partners with UN to bring Internet access to refugee camps
CNN: Mark Zuckerberg: Internet access can eradicate extreme poverty
Reuters: Facebook founder calls for universal Internet to help cure global ills
USA Today: Zuckerberg pushes Internet for everyone in U.N. speech