If you thought Facebook was only good for spamming you with Farmville updates and showing you what your high school classmates ate for lunch, think again. The social network just teamed up with a consortium of other tech big-wigs to form Internet.org, an organization dedicated to bringing the internet to the two-thirds of the world that is still without it.
In addition to Mark Zuckerberg's social network, the Internet.org initiative lists Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung as the other founding members. A quote from a United Nations Human Rights Council report appearing on the organization's website illustrates the group's goals: "The internet boosts economic, social and political development, and contributes to the progress of humankind as a whole."
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One of Internet.org's prime objectives is to make internet access more affordable, which is one of the major obstacles to adoption in developing countries. Internet.org is pegging lower-cost, higher-quality smartphones one of the key means to this end.
Using data more efficiently, something founding member Opera knows a thing or two about, is the second cornerstone. The conglomerate will "invest in tools that dramatically reduce the amount of data required to use most apps and internet experiences." Data compression will play a big part here, but it sounds like the group is also eying infrastructure improvements.
The last tenet, helping businesses drive access, may be the most important. After all, grand goals like this are much more sustainable when businesses get behind them. So Internet.org is going to test "new models that align incentives for mobile operators, device manufacturers, developers and other businesses to provide more affordable access than has previously been possible." In other words, make sure business large or small will be financially rewarded for providing affordable internet access in places that need it.
Of course, you can't ignore the fact that the involved companies could all stand to eventually profit from more internet users, so we'd probably be naive to pretend like this is an entirely altruistic act. But it's an extremely ambitious effort nonetheless, which obviously goes far beyond the scope of a typical business strategy.
The organization's self-named website is already live. You can watch the initiative's video mission statement (either there or below), which features audio from a 1963 speech by John F. Kennedy, describing his vision for world peace.