Zuckerberg to put the whole world online

Running the worlds’ largest social network clearly hasn’t been keeping Mark Zuckerberg busy, so the 29 year old CEO has set himself the little side project of getting the entire planet online. Facebook, along with several other large players in the communications and social media market, including Samsung, Nokia and Qualcomm, have joined forces under a partnership called internet.org and set themselves the audacious goal of reducing the cost of data to 1% of its current level in the next 5-10 years.

So is this a cynical commercial exercise or a display of true altruism? As Zuckerberg points out, the current billion users are worth considerably more in advertising than the rest of the world combined, so if it was all about the dollars and cents Facebook would be better off concentrating all their efforts on maximising engagement from the current audience. However, as true as that may be, it is only true today. Economic strength is constantly shifting around the globe, and the rate of that redistribution will only increase as Facebook and their buddies help to get more people get online. So while the 5 million people Zuckerberg intends to connect may today have little to offer him today for his charity, it’s unlikely that in 10, 20 years from now they won’t have more than repaid their debt.

Anyway, it’s easy and unhelpful to pick holes in the generosity of those who have everything. Whatever their agenda, I think most would agree that this is an exciting target and one that has real potential to make the world a fairer place.